Job Safety in the Covid-19 Crisis

The pandemic class structure is increasingly built around a divide between face-to-face and remote work. Based on interviews with workers on both sides of this divide, our newest American Voices Project report explores whether this change in the structure of work is leading to new types of inter-worker relations and conflict.

Key findings:

  • The pandemic has created a new “risk divide” between (a) face-to-face workers who bear disproportionate health risks (exposure to COVID-19) and economic risks (exposure to layoffs), and (b) remote workers who are better protected from those risks.
  • Because Black and Hispanic workers are more likely to be employed in face-to-face jobs (due to systemic racism and other institutional forces), they are exposed to a double burden of heightened health and economic risk. This employment-based channel of unequal risk-sharing is one way in which the current crisis has exacerbated long-standing racial and ethnic inequalities.
  • The emergence of a heightened risk divide between remote and face-to-face workers might also be expected to intensify inter-worker conflict. Contrary to this expectation, we find that very few face-to-face workers are expressing resentment, with the dominant sentiment instead being a stoic fortitude (“inward gaze”), an appreciation that others are also suffering (“downward gaze”), and a recognition that “we’re in this together” (“outward gaze”).


Reference Information

Publication Date: 
March, 2021