Poll: unemployed, underemployed workers say transportation, childcare, benefits are career barriers

Poll: unemployed, underemployed workers say transportation, childcare, benefits are career barriers

By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A new poll shows that unemployed and underemployed Alabamians see transportation, childcare and potential loss of government benefits as barriers to entering or moving up in the workforce.

The survey, commissioned by AlabamaWorks and conducted by Cygnal, is part of an ongoing effort by the state’s workforce and economic development community to better understand the challenges workers face in order to develop solutions.

More than 64% of working parents said that the lack of adequate childcare has caused them to work fewer hours than they’d like. A full 40% did not know where to get assistance with childcare, and women and single parents were particularly unaware of where to turn.

More than half of all respondents – 51% – said they had lost a job or job opportunity because of a lack of transportation. The problem is more prevalent among men, people are 35 and up and those without a college degree.

More than a third of respondents say they have declined or delayed a job opportunity because they were afraid of losing some kind of government benefit. The fear was especially prevalent among men, people age 55-64, those living in Birmingham and parents.

Gov. Kay Ivey has set a goal of adding 500,000 credentialed workers to the workforce by 2025, which if accomplished would bring the level of work-age Alabamians with post high school training or degrees from about 43 percent in 2016 to 60 percent.

The Alabama Workforce Council has been developing strategies to reduce and eliminate these so called-benefit cliffs, according to Tim McCartney, who chairs the council.

“Benefit cliffs, which occur when earnings gains are offset by the loss of public benefits, have long been recognized to create financial disincentives for low-income individuals to earn more income or train for higher paying occupations,” he said in a news release. “Under Governor Ivey’s leadership, Alabama has made abating benefit cliffs central to the state’s strategy for helping people achieve self-sufficiency.”

One tool the state has developed, working alongside the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, allows residents to better understand exactly what their income and benefit situation would be given a different employment situation.

The Dashboard for Alabamians to Visualize Income Determinations, or DAVID, is an online portal that can help inform career decisions and reduce uncertainty, according to AlabamaWorks.

The Cygnal survey was conducted Feb. 25 – March 4 by interviewing a total of 401 respondents via a computer assisted web interviewing platform recruiting via Facebook.