Study: One-Third of Manufacturing Workers on Public Assistance

The result is some 2 million manufacturing workers who are reliant on things like food stamps, Medicaid and other forms of publicly subsidized assistance.

This week, the manufacturing industry has been all over the mainstream media, with Forbes, TIME, and the International Business Times reporting on a study out of UC Berkeley, and it’s not positive.

Researchers have determined that over one-third of non-supervisor level manufacturing workers in the U.S. are on some form of public assistance. This percentage increases to 50% when temp workers are factored in, and temp hires – especially since the recession – have grown dramatically. The result is some 2 million manufacturing workers who are reliant on things like food stamps, Medicaid and other forms of publicly subsidized assistance.

The UC-Berkeley researchers report that the largest classification of temporary manufacturing production workers—assemblers and fabricators—earn a median wage of $10.88 an hour, while those hired directly by the companies make an average of $15.03.

Low wages in the manufacturing industry are said to now be costing taxpayers approximately $10.2 billion each year.

So what happened to the family wage manufacturing jobs that once pulled countless families out of poverty? Some suggest wages simply haven’t kept pace with inflation. Others blame the way unions have faded from the scene in many industries, or the fact that trade policies like NAFTA may have created inroads for companies to outsource to Mexico which is beating down wages here in the states.

Regardless of the cause, it’s a solution that we need. And as manufacturing struggles to find the workers who will fill the necessary skills gaps over the coming years, the last thing they need is to have a PR problem on their hands.

*Editor's Note: After this video was published, IEN was contacted by NAM (National Association of Manufacturers), who wished to comment on the state of manufacturing wages based on their own perspective: “Manufacturers offer employment to over 12 million Americans, and while some studies might suggest otherwise, the indisputable fact remains that manufacturing jobs are a pathway to the middle class,” said NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray. “According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $79,553 annually in 2014, including pay and benefits. That’s over $15,000 a year more than other industries. In addition, over 92 percent of manufacturing employees were eligible for health insurance benefits in 2015. With the right action from policymakers, manufacturers can continue to grow and make this pathway available to even more Americans.”

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