- New York City's construction workforce could do more to recruit and mentor women and underrepresented groups, according to an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) data by the New York Building Congress.
- In 2016, the share of white, non-Hispanic workers in the city's construction workforce (40%) increased, while the percentage of Hispanics (36%) decreased. The share of women (7.6%) was unchanged. The number of total non-White workers decreased more than 2% to 60% in 2016, but the number of those who self-identify as black increased slightly to 14%.
- According to the NYBC, 56% of the city's construction workers earn less than $50,000 annually and 45% had no health insurance. Nearly all those without health insurance are blue collar workers.
The construction industry has long struggled to recruit and maintain underrepresented demographics, particularly women and people of color. Women, who comprise less than 9% of the industry, can be discouraged from seeking a job in construction or staying in the industry due to the potential for an unwelcoming environment or a lack of effort to protect them on the jobsite.
The industry, too, could better seek to recruit Hispanic workers by increasing their efforts to maintain bilingual superintendents and foremen. Spanish-language based training and certification programs could also encourage more Hispanic workers to pursue employment in the industry, move into leadership roles or own their own companies.
While New York City still provides solid construction opportunities for many workers, there are places in the U.S. where many construction workers live close to the poverty line and endure harsh working conditions.
An April 2017 report from the nonprofit group Polaris found construction was one of the top U.S. industries that contributes to human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Of the 42,000 U.S. cases of potential human trafficking or labor exploitation Polaris received from December 2007 to December 2016, 550 cases were from the construction industry. Of those cases, most trafficked and exploited workers typically come from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
The South appears to be home to some of the worst working conditions for construction workers. The Workers Defense Project found that only 5% of the workers in the six Southern states it studied were covered by workers' compensation coverage in case of an injury and 57% earned less than $15 per hour.
The Workers Defense Project reported that in Houston alone, 40% of construction workers had no health insurance, paid vacations, sick leave or other benefits and that more than 30% had no break time or employer-provided drinking water during the workday.
Small businesses, Polaris reported, were the most likely to engage in this type of worker treatment. According to the report, some classified those workers as independent contractors so that they wouldn't have to pay benefits or cover them with workers' compensation insurance.