Asian American and Pacific Islander women face a $267,760 lifetime salary shortfall due to the pay gap

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Some consider April 5 equal pay day for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women, marking the point into the new year that the average AAPI woman has to work to make the same pay white men earned in 2022.

In other words, an AAPI woman has to work 15 months to earn what a man makes in one year, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, said Jasmine Tucker, the NWLC’s director of research. 

The reality is, “she is never, ever going to catch up,” Tucker said.

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Although AAPI — also referred to as AANHPI — communities together constitute the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S., “systemic barriers to equity, justice and opportunity put the American dream out of reach of many,” according to the Biden administration.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, AAPI women endured disproportionately more job losses and were more likely to have child care needs affect their ability to work.

At the same time, persistent gender inequities suppressed wages and caused a crisis in savings as inflation took hold, Tucker said. “Some of these women are still digging out,” she added. “Another recession at this point is a really scary prospect.”

Pay gap worsens for some AAPI communities

Today, AAPI women are typically paid just 92 cents for every dollar paid to white men, although the pay gap varies significantly for some AAPI communities.

For example, Bhutanese women working full time earn just 48 cents for every dollar white men earn.

Over time, that inequality is magnified. Based on today’s wage gap, an AAPI woman just starting out will lose $267,760 over a 40-year career, according to the NWLC’s analysis.

Some of these women are still digging out. Another recession at this point is a really scary prospect.

Jasmine Tucker

director of research, National Women’s Law Center

For Bhutanese women, the lifetime wage gap totals more than $1.3 million, and for Burmese women, the losses are close: $1.2 million.

Nepalese women also lose more than $1.1 million, and Hmong and Cambodian women lose more than $1 million to the wage gap over the course of their careers, the nonprofit advocacy group found.

That translates into many “missed opportunities for wealth building,” Tucker said, like the ability to buy a home, pay for their children’s education, start a business or save for retirement.

There are, however, four groups of AAPI women working full time who make more than white men — including Chinese women, Indian women, Malaysian women and Taiwanese women — and yet, these women still make less than men in their own respective communities. 

There are initiatives that can help, Tucker added, like the Paycheck Fairness Act, which aims to eliminate pay discrimination and strengthen workplace protections for women, and pay transparency laws, which require employers to list their minimum and maximum salary ranges on publicized job postings.

The idea is that pay legislation will bring about pay equity, or essentially equal pay for work of equal or comparable value, regardless of worker gender, race or other demographic category.

With or without legal requirements, “there’s a lot we could do,” Tucker said.

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