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Good Data + Good Policy = Good Jobs for Everyone

Pat Shiu, DOL Director of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, blogs about the recent Interagency Working Group meeting and DOL’s plan to bring their vision of “Good Jobs for Everyone” to the AAPI community.

Earlier this week, I joined my colleagues from 22 other federal agencies for an historic meeting with the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Together, we discussed strategies for increasing participation by AAPIs in federal programs where they are underserved.  We were thrilled when President Obama made a surprise appearance at our meeting to receive our plans on how to meet the mandates he set for us.

At the Department of Labor, we share the President’s vision of ensuring a 21st century workforce that looks like, sounds like and truly reflects the diversity of 21st century America.  I am proud to represent Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis because her vision of “Good Jobs for Everyone” recognizes that we all have a role to play in our economic recovery – workers, employers, policy makers, community leaders and ordinary citizens.

Much of what we do at DOL is specifically focused on getting people across the nation back to work and ensuring that the reach for good jobs is truly within the grasp of everyone. We are committed to enforcing our laws to keep the doors of opportunity open for all workers – even if we have to pry those doors open from time to time. For those who have jobs, DOL is working to ensure that you are getting a fair deal in exchange for hard work – whether you work in a cubicle, a nail salon, a classroom or a shrimp boat.

That is why DOL is directing our efforts to engage the most vulnerable workers across the country. A key component to our success is having quality data about the AAPI population. Good data are the lifeblood of good public policy.

At our meeting Census Bureau Director Robert Groves provided us with a briefing on data collected about our communities which underscores just how important it will be for the government to engage AAPIs. Preliminary 2010 data indicate that the AAPI population has grown by more than 15% in the last 10 years and is projected to grow more than 42% in the next 40 years.  Moreover, we learned that:

  • Over two-thirds of AAPIs are foreign born.
  • Approximately one-third of the population is limited English proficient (LEP)
  • AAPI workers experience disproportionately longer periods of unemployment. In 2009, the median duration of unemployment for Asian Americans was 16.6 weeks.
  • AAPIs in the service industry experienced the fastest growth in the past decade, contributing to an increase in low-wage workers in a population where close to 11 percent live below the poverty line.

So, how do we plan to tackle the issues?  At DOL, we have proposed an ambitious plan that includes:

  • Data: Producing and collecting timely, accurate data on the economic conditions of AAPI workers. This data must be disaggregated to give an accurate picture of our communities.
  • Outreach: Identifying, disseminating and encouraging replication of “promising practices” to engage AAPIs in the workforce, with a particular emphasis on language access, cultural competency and linkages between employers and community-based organizations.
  • Language access: Producing and translating easily understood health, safety and civil rights materials for workers and employers in the AAPI communities.
  • Inclusion: Preparing AAPI workers to succeed in a knowledge-based economy, including emerging sectors, like “green” jobs.
  • Employment: Fulfilling our obligation to serve as a model employer and holding those who do business with taxpayer dollars – contractors and subcontractors – to the fair and reasonable standard that they take affirmative action and prohibit discrimination in employment.

For a complete picture of what federal agencies will be doing, please check out our agency plans. DOL’s commitment to this Initiative is part of our plan to transform Secretary Solis’s vision into the reality of “Good Jobs for Everyone.”

Patricia A. Shiu was appointed by President Obama to serve as Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, a civil rights agency at the U.S. Department of Labor. She is a second-generation Chinese American who represents DOL on the federal Interagency Working Group of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.