The tech industry's invisible workforce

March 30, 2016

Today we released a new research brief, Tech's Invisible Workforce, which reveals the breathtaking scale and depth of a decades-long trend driving inequality in Silicon Valley.

Anyone working hard to get by in this region knows that rising rents and incomes that don't keep up can make it seem harder every day. This new brief points to a key reason: in the low-wage industries that provide services to tech companies, jobs are growing three times faster than in the rest of the economy.

It's time for tech to take responsibility for all the workers that support the industry. The technology industry is booming, and the jobs that are growing during the boom are in subcontracted industries and occupations - like cafeteria workers, security officers and janitors - dominated by immigrant workers and workers of color.

The jobs in these contracting industries don't come with the six figure paychecks and stock options. Instead, they pay barely enough to cover rent - let alone food, gas, child care or health care.

The result is dramatic segregation by occupation: Potential contract workers - whether they're in white-collar jobs like human resources or accounting, or blue-collar jobs like landscaping and food service - earn a fraction of what direct tech employees earn, and are up to 5.8 times more likely to be African American or Latino.

We see the impact every day in our communities: 22 percent of contract industry workers live in households with multiple unrelated families and 31 percent have no health insurance.

The tech industry is making enormous profits in our Valley off of these workers. Responsible industry leaders have the power to ensure that contracted workers share in the prosperity and wealth in this region.

Good corporate citizens take responsibility for making sure their contracted workers have good jobs and a voice at work. They invest in building a community where janitors, security officers, cafeteria workers, teachers, nurses, firefighters and other non-tech workers can afford to live. They create career opportunities for contracted workers, and they are transparent about this workforce when company data are reported.

Tech companies can do better.