Unemployment rates for Asian Americans rise 450% amid COVID-19: McKinsey
McKinsey & Co. partner Emily Yueh joins Zack Guzman and Brian Cheung of Yahoo Finance to break down a new report highlighting unemployment among Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
ZACK GUZMAN: This year, we have been following the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and noting how it has affected some communities harder than others. And a new report from McKinsey examines how Asian Americans have been affected by the pandemic, noting that Asian-American unemployment rates rose by more than 450% from February to June of this year, which is much more. than what we’ve seen in some other breed groups, too. In this latest clip, the Asian unemployment rate in that country is 8.9%. It was higher than White Americans at 7%.
So what is really going on here? Here to chat with us, McKinsey and Co. partner Emily Yueh, as well as Yahoo Finance’s Brian Cheung. And Emily, I appreciate that you took the time to chat. It’s interesting – it’s a very interesting report when you point out how it could have happened. And that’s something we’ve seen in other racial groups as well, in terms of maybe too much influence over certain industries, whether it’s the hospitality industry or the medical profession, in this. case. But what is happening in terms of what you’ve seen since the pandemic hit?
EMILY YUEH: You are there. Thank you very much for having me, Zack. I think the only reason we wrote this article was really to highlight a conversation that a lot of people around the world just didn’t have. Asian Americans have been affected significantly, almost disproportionately, by the pandemic. And we can actually see it in different ways.
As you mentioned, the percentage of unemployment is steadily increasing. We’ve also seen mental health become more of a problem with a 39% increase in mental health among all Asian Americans. And when you juxtapose that alongside, frankly, the things that we actually see happening on the front lines, the high percentage of Asian Americans who risk their lives every day to be on the front line of service to their communities, that is. ‘is in fact a crude and contradictory. And so we really wanted to shed some light on that.
BRIAN CHEUNG: Hi, Emilie. It’s Brian here. So, you know, you and Zack mentioned the points about the professional overrepresentation of Asians in restaurants, hospitality services – sectors that have been really affected by this crisis, as we know. But what are some other explanations that perhaps explain why Asian-American unemployment has fallen so much? It looks like it’s actually a little different from what we saw in 2008 and a harder impact during that time. Why could it be?
EMILY YUEH: You are there. I mean, it’s actually crazy when you think about it, when you say Asian Americans, it’s not a monolith, is it? There is actually a huge diaspora of people. When we think about how an East Asian experiences arriving in America versus someone from Southeast Asia versus, you know, in the West, it’s completely different.
And not just that. I mean, Brian, you and I have discussed this before. There really is almost a vintage of Asian Americans coming to America at different times and their experiences. And so the bottom line to all of this is that how Asian Americans got to the United States is really starting to have an impact, frankly, on how they are adopted into the economic and social infrastructure.
And when we thought about how we wanted to shed light on this and what communities around the world could do, we really wanted to make sure that this wasn’t yet another kind of racial Olympics, if you will. want. We wanted to make sure that we actually had the opportunity to make this even clearer, in terms of the opportunities to impact their communities.
BRIAN CHEUNG: And yes, at the same time, one thing that your report kind of highlighted was the unique experience of, in particular, xenophobia and discrimination. Many people associate this virus with the cultures of East Asia, in particular. I mean, how has that played into maybe some of the unemployment trends? Has it really hurt businesses from what McKinsey saw when you wrote this report?
EMILY YUEH: You know, it’s hard to say what exactly causes what. And you know, it’s very difficult to directly link xenophobia with unemployment. But we see that there has been an increase in targeted discrimination against Asians.
And the impact of that is really that, you know, over a third of Americans have watched and seen individuals blame Asian Americans for the epidemic. It’s absurd when you think about the size of the Asian-American community.
And when you see that it’s really immediately correlated with a community that generally doesn’t talk about mental health. And we’re actually seeing that 39% increase, as I mentioned earlier. So these things are very closely related, frankly, to the larger context of what is happening to Asian Americans in the United States.
ZACK GUZMAN: I’m glad you mentioned that aspect of the racial Olympics because that’s not what we want to happen here either. Because every time we talk about an affected group, you hear other people come out and say, why are you highlighting that?
And of course you can be– [CHUCKLING] you could be discriminated against on all levels here. So we’re not saying it doesn’t happen. But what’s interesting is that the unemployment rate fell from the Asian unemployment rate in this latest clip in September, as I said, to 8.9%. The unemployment rate for blacks, 12.1%, and Hispanics at 10.3.
So I mean it has an impact on other communities. This is something that we have seen. But tell me why this isn’t necessarily a conversation about not helping all of these communities but something that everyone has seen happen here when you think about it, again white unemployment is always better than all those at 7%.
EMILY YUEH: You know what we know from research is that in times of crisis we all look to the people we know and trust. And this is just a social phenomenon. It’s an economic phenomenon that we’ve seen year after year, you know, through all the different crises.
And what we also know is that part of the denial of the right to vote is that you are not in the core. You are not in this circle of trust. And so what you said, Zack, is right. It is not a huge surprise to see unemployment rising for groups that are historically not at heart and for those at heart really getting even closer in times of crisis.
BRIAN CHEUNG: And Emily, finally, McKinsey works with a lot of companies. So what’s the general theme, I guess, of the report? How do you see that and apply it to the conversations you have with companies that have the power to rehire people or decide what to do with their diversity initiatives? What do you hope to be the product of it?
EMILY YUEH: Brian, I think that’s the big draw and push of the article. It’s really three things. First of all, let’s all educate ourselves: really understand the data, really understand what should be the basis of the conversation.
And the second is to take a fairly clear position on the fight against xenophobia. Regardless of which group we’re talking about, it really must be the time for us to come together and make the tapestry that is America. And then the third is that, when possible, serve your communities. And I think in that particular context, the Asian-American communities are really, you know, some of the – some of the communities just outside of your neighborhood.
ZACK GUZMAN: All right, there you go, and a very interesting discussion there. Obviously, one problem deserves to be highlighted here. McKinsey Partner Emily Yueh as well as Yahoo Finance’s Brian Cheung thank you both for the conversation.
EMILY YUEH: Thank you very much for having us.