Data shows Silicon Valley's low-wage workers hit hard by pandemic

"We actually have a case of the rich getting richer and the poor, dying." Silicon Valley has always had two economies but during the pandemic, income inequality grew as high tech workers continued to work remotely while service workers couldn't.

Video Transcript

- The nearly year-long pandemic has hammered Silicon Valley, creating new problems and making existing ones worse. Analysis contained in Joint Venture's new "Silicon Valley Index" points out, for example, that unemployment brushed close to 12 percent, worse than during the 2008 recession and the dot-com bust.

RACHEL MASSARO: It was upwards of 30 percent for some segments of our population, particularly those who were earning poverty wages.

- Hardest-hit were low-wage service workers when restaurants and hotels lost business. Jobless claims were two times higher for Black and Hispanic workers than for white workers.

NICOLE TAYLOR: Without a job or an income, these workers face even greater risks of being evicted and pushed into homelessness. This is huge.

- Silicon Valley has always had two economies. But during the pandemic, income inequality grew, as high-tech workers continued to work remotely while service workers couldn't.

RUSSELL HANCOCK: We actually have a case of the rich getting richer and the poor dying. And that's the bleak set of circumstances we now face.

- Renters, especially, are piling up debt. They owe months of back-rent. Food needs are being supplemented by pantries. And statistics show minorities behind others getting vaccinated, leading to additional vulnerability.

NICOLE TAYLOR: Black and Latinx workers will continue to risk their health in order to earn an income so they can keep a roof over their heads and feed their families.

- The one bright spot-- high-tech companies are proceeding with office projects already underway.

RACHEL MASSARO: If we end up having a largely remote workforce in the future, I see it only as an ability for these companies to expand and further increase their employment levels here.

- However, Silicon Valley cities face belt-tightening as tax revenue falls, leaving a collective shortfall of $400 million. And distance learning saw graduation rates decline and the dropout rate rise.

RUSSELL HANCOCK: It should be no surprise that there's a frustrated group of our young people that have just said, well, enough of this.

- Silicon Valley has a big challenge ahead.

NICOLE TAYLOR: It is a big wake-up call for all of us. We all have got to figure out how to engage and understand a better way, building a better--