Newark residents face severe challenges finding living wage jobs, study finds

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on October 03, 2014

NEWARK — A “living wage,” or a salary that can actually support the average costs of living, is significantly higher than minimum wage, and is difficult for most residents in the state’s largest city to attain, according to a new study released by Together North Jersey yesterday.

The 85-page study, Newark Access to Opportunity: Connecting Neighborhoods to Local Economic Development, concluded that most Newark residents face “severe challenges” accessing jobs that pay living wages.

“All too often residents in our community find that the jobs available nearby are either too hard to access or simply don’t pay a living wage,” Drew Curtis, the Director of Community Development & Environmental Justice at the Ironbound Community Corporation, one of the Together North Jersey’s project partners, said in a release about the study.

“Here in our neighborhood, we are aiming to attract living wage jobs that place our residents on a career path to success.”

The study considered the average costs of housing, food, food, childcare, medical expenses, transportation, taxes, and other expenses to calculate a “living wage” for different family make-ups in the city. It considered a minimum annual salary of $26,821 a living wage for one adult, and found the following wages necessary for different family units:

Family

Required annual income before taxes

1 adult

$26,821

1 adult, 1 child

$46,889

1 adult, 2 children

$58,504

1 adult, 3 children

$72,070

2 adults

$34,810

2 adults, 1 child

$41,253

2 adults, 2 children

$45,945

2 adults, 3 children

$53,260

The study, which did not identify a specific percentage of Newark residents living below the living wage line, outlined several factors that bar residents from securing jobs that would earn living wages, including issues with public transportation and street safety that can physically prohibit people from getting to work, a lack of education and skilled training, language barriers, criminal backgrounds, and a limited knowledge of job opportunities and training programs.

The study, which focused on four neighborhoods – East Ferry in the Ironbound, Fairmount in the Central Ward, Lower Broadway in the North Ward, and Upper Clinton Hill in the South Ward – identified five main suggestions to reverse the trend:

  1. Improve the way residents get to work. “Through enhanced marketing of transit feedback tools, greater synchronization of transit services to major centers of employment, and creation of more walkable and bikeable streets near transit stops and port employment areas, Newark residents will face less burden in traveling to work,” the study says.
  2. Build locally. The study suggests developing satellite training locations and other business uses in smaller vacant and abandoned buildings, and redeveloping larger ones.
  3. Local work. City-subsidized jobs should hire employees from Newark, and the city should nurture the growth of industries like manufacturing, transportation/logistics/distribution, health care, and sustainable economy industries, the study found.
  4. Close the skill and information gap. The study suggested using already-strong community-based organizations as a way to connect residents to workforce development programs, vocational education, and internship programs.
  5. Continue investigation. “The City should create and convene the Newark Sustainable Economy Task Force – a proposed collaboration between City officials, workforce investment boards, education institutions, skills providers, community based organizations, key employers, non-profit partners, and transportation providers – to implement the recommendations of this report and other related efforts,” the study found.

The study also explores the suggestions, and recommends possible funding to implement them, including government funding, NJ Transit projects, corporate foundations, and other sources.

Together North Jersey, a collaborative planning initiative in North Jersey, partnered with the Regional Plan Association, 4ward Planning, NJ Transit, the City of Newark, and Rutgers University Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, to carry out the study.

“Providing jobs enables us to create a safer, more prosperous Newark, and reduce crime and recidivism,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said in the release.

“I congratulate the Together North Jersey team on preparing this report, and assure them that we will be taking its conclusions very seriously and work to incorporate them into our efforts to transform Newark into a City we can all believe in.”

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