It's no secret that the remote work economy is booming. Technology has allowed people to work from anywhere, and companies are taking advantage by hiring employees who can do their job from home.
But one group is getting left behind in this economy: Native Americans. Even though they possess many skills required for remote work, they lack many of the same opportunities to participate in this growing economic sector.
It’s more important than ever for Native Americans to have access to quality education and training programs that will prepare them for telecommuting careers. And positive changes in infrastructure must continue so that all Native communities can access broadband internet. Investing in these programs can help close the racial divide in the telecommuting workforce and enable Native Americans to participate in the digital age economy.
This has to change to see Native Americans thrive in the 21st century.
The data speaks for itself
There is still a significant economic disparity between certain ethnic and racial groups. While Native Americans are making a comeback from the unemployment rate during the pandemic, they still aren’t quite there. According to August 2022 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current unemployment rate for Indigenous people is 4.9%, which continues to be higher than the national average. Furthermore, during the pandemic and currently, Natives work(ed) remotely at a rate much lower than their white counterparts.
Due to this disparity, many Native workers cannot reap the benefits of working remotely. Having the opportunity to stay inside their community to work while making connections within their tribe and expanding Native-owned businesses isn’t possible when Native people must travel long distances to work. Many people feel happier when working from home or within their community, and they can enjoy a more balanced life.
Despite the great benefits of remote work, data shows that Native people aren’t catching up to most other groups of people, which makes some question what’s happening.
Contributing factors to less remote work access
The lack of access to job opportunities, adequate living spaces, and appropriate infrastructure are major factors that contribute to the lack of remote work access.
As stated in an article on this topic, “Past research has shown that Native Americans have a distinct occupational distribution that has impacted their ability to work remotely. While part of this distinction is due to cultural factors that affect which occupations Native American workers choose, a significant portion of it is also due to the opportunities they have—and don’t have—access to.”
This issue isn’t new. Native American communities struggle to get proper funding for much-needed programs, especially in rural areas, that will help them access functional living and working spaces and appropriate technology, encouraging more remote work. Seen as an essential staple in most American homes, many Native families continue not to have broadband internet access. Not everyone has a personal computer in low-income homes, especially in areas with spotty to no internet service.
This glaring resource gap creates a more significant rift between Natives and other groups of people.
One other factor related to the lack of remote work is discrimination.
Researchers “found that even when controlling for educational disparities, Native Americans still end up in jobs that require less education and have worse labor market outcomes—with the effects of the latter being particularly strong in states where Native Americans make up a larger share of the population.”
Overall, fewer Native Americans are hired for certain positions while people of other racial and ethics groups are chosen over them.
Native Americans getting left behind in the remote work economy is a multi-faceted issue that will require all hands on deck to curb the disparity. We must work together to change laws and policies and start advocating more for the right things to see a change soon.
Last Updated on October 10, 2022 by vhormazabal