The New Face of the Working Poor

The New Face of the Working Poor: Navigating Economic Realities in the Modern World
By: Mary Heysek, President/ CEO, United Food Bank of Plant City


The “working poor,” a term long associated with those who work and toil hard but still struggle to make ends meet, has taken on a new face in the modern world. With ever-changing economic landscape and shifting job markets, a growing number of individuals and families find themselves in the unenviable position of working hard yet living on the brink of poverty. The United Food Bank serves East Hillsborough County and has seen a large increase in people in need that you would not think would be part of this population. It includes teachers, law enforcement, warehouse workers, and the list goes on and on. In this blog, we will explore the emerging challenges faced by the working poor, the factors contributing to it, and the importance of addressing this issue.
Who are the New Working Poor?
Traditionally, the working poor were predominantly low-skilled workers in sectors like manufacturing and service industries. However, the new face of the working poor includes individuals from a wide range of professions and educational backgrounds. In fact, the United Food Bank is currently working with three local homeless teachers, single moms who have been priced out of their homes because of high rent. In today’s world we see:
1. Underemployed Professionals: Many college graduates and highly skilled individuals find themselves in underemployment situations, working in jobs that do not fully utilize their qualifications and          expertise. As a result, they struggle to earn enough to meet their basic needs. Some educated individuals struggle to find sustainable positions due to the major they selected in college.
2. Gig Economy Workers: The rise of the gig economy has created a workforce of independent contractors and freelancers who lack job security and stable income, often living paycheck to paycheck. Gig workers are independent workers hired for short-term commitments.

3. Single parents: Single parents, particularly mothers, face significant challenges as they juggle work and caregiving responsibilities. Balancing work and family commitments can limit their earning potential and increase their risk of falling into poverty. Florida is rated sixth in the nation for the highest divorce rates. Households now have to split the income and provide for two separate households.
Factors Contributing to the New Working Poor
1. Stagnant Wages: Despite economic growth in many countries, wages have not kept pace with the rising cost of living. This disparity between wages and expenses makes it increasingly difficult for workers to stay above the poverty line.
2. Increased Cost of Living: Housing, food, insurance, gas, healthcare, etc. have skyrocketed in recent years, placing an enormous burden on workers, even those with moderate incomes. The cost of food alone has increased this past year by 25% causing more individuals and families to be food insecure.
3. Job Market Changes: Automation and globalization have led to job displacement and the erosion of job security in certain industries. Many workers find themselves in precarious employment situations with irregular hours and little stability.
4. Inadequate Social Safety Nets: Insufficient social support and safety nets can exacerbate the financial struggles of the working poor. Limited access to affordable healthcare, affordable housing, and food can leave workers without the necessary resources to thrive.
5. Work from Home Employees: Although there is both positive and negative impact with more people working from home, it has changed the workforce, leaving less individuals to fill the open positions.
Addressing the Challenges of the New Working Poor
1. Living Wage Initiatives: Advocating for living wage policies that ensure workers are paid enough to meet their basic needs can help lift the working poor out of poverty.
2. Affordable Housing: Investing in affordable housing initiatives can reduce the financial strain on workers and create more stable living conditions.

3.Social Support Programs: Expanding access to social support programs, such as affordable childcare and healthcare, can alleviate some of the burdens faced by the working poor.
4.Education and Upskilling: Offering educational opportunities and upskilling programs can empower workers to access better-paying jobs and enhance earning potential.
The new face of the working poor reflects the evolving complexities of the modern economy. As we move forward, it is crucial to recognize and address the challenges faced by these individuals and families. By implementing supportive policies, and providing educational opportunities, we can work towards reducing the prevalence of the working poor and building a society where hard work translates to financial stability and a better quality of life for all.


United Food Bank & Services of Plant City

702 E. Alsobrook

Plant City, FL  33563

(813) 764-0625