Photograph of a band saw being used.
Photograph of a band saw being used.
OneNYC 2050 : Volume 3 of 9 : An Inclusive Economy

Provide economic security for all through fair wages and expanded benefits

Too many New Yorkers are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to make ends meet. At the same time, the federal government is failing to meet the challenges associated with economic disruption, insecurity, and inequality. New York City is responding through a set of initiatives aimed at reducing poverty and increasing economic mobility. These programs complement other signature initiatives by the administration that address financial hardships, such as the Housing New York affordable housing plan, Pre-K for All and associated child care benefits, the guarantee of health care for every New Yorker through NYC Care, the launch of “Fair Fares” to provide reduced-cost mass transit to low-income New Yorkers, and the expansion of programs aimed at addressing food insecurity. Together these policies will ensure all residents have access to resources and services to help them reach their full potential, and also cope with periods of unemployment and uncertainty.
Aggressively Enforce Fair Wages and Working Conditions

The City promotes quality jobs by ensuring more residents work full-time hours, have stable schedules, and earn paid leave. Over the past few years, the City has enacted laws and rules to protect the rights of workers, such as ensuring more predictable schedules for fast food and retail workers, as well as paid family leave, which allows employees to take paid time off work to care for family members who are very ill or have a serious health condition. The City has also proposed mandated paid personal time to help more than 500,000 residents working full- and part-time who do not have paid time off. The new law would require private businesses with five or more employees to offer 10 annual days of paid personal time, to be used at the employees’ discretion.

To effectively enforce worker protections and benefits, the City is expanding the mission and name of the Department of Consumer Affairs to the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP). With a powerful new mandate, DCWP is expanding its compliance and outreach work, and enforcement powers, to better protect workers (including the city’s 400,000 freelance and for-hire workers). The City has already recovered $7.5 million in lost wages in 2017 and 2018 through the enforcement of laws to protect workers, including Paid Safe and Sick Leave, Fair Workweek, and Freelance isn’t Free. As this work expands,  the City will provide alternative dispute resolution for paid caregivers and other domestic workers, many of whom are immigrants vulnerable to workplace problems such as wage theft and sexual harassment. 

New York City’s near poverty rate has significantly declined since 2013, though more than 43% of New Yorkers still live in or near poverty.
Bar graph displaying New York City's near poverty rate has significantly declined since 2013, though more than 43% of New Yorkers still live in or near poverty.

New York City’s near poverty rate has significantly declined since 2013, though more than 43% of New Yorkers still live in or near poverty.

Source: NYC Opportunity

The City recovered $7.5 million in unpaid wages on behalf of workers in 2017 and 2018.
Guarantee Access to Lifeline Benefits

The gig economy means fewer jobs offer the income security and lifeline benefits American workers have traditionally depended on. The City is innovating new models for ensuring worker access to benefits outside the employer-employee relationship, allowing movement of accrued benefits from job to job. Among the City’s efforts:

  • The City is creating a retirement plan that will provide access to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) for all working New Yorkers. Forty percent of New Yorkers between the ages of 50–64 have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. These people are mostly lower income and disproportionately female and people of color. The City will seek to require all employers with at least five employees to either offer access to a retirement plan or auto-enroll their employees in the City plan with a default contribution of the employees’ own earnings of 5 percent, which could then be increased or reduced by the employee.
  • The City will guarantee health care for all City residents by 2021. NYC Care, launching in summer 2019, will connect thousands of New Yorkers who are ineligible for health insurance to reliable care. Once fully implemented, anyone will be able to access comprehensive care across NYC Health + Hospitals’ more than 70 locations. Priced on a sliding scale to ensure affordability, NYC Care will provide access to primary care, specialty care, prescription drugs, mental health services, hospitalization, and more. See more in Healthy Lives
  • The Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity is contributing funding to a study in new york city and three other cities testing the impact of a child allowance on child development and other family effects. This study will build on prior research that associates higher family income with children’s brain development, including those regions implicated in language and executive functions.
  • The City will convene a task force to study the impact of automation on the future of work and workers, including its impact on working New Yorkers, potential to be harnessed for growth and opportunity, and strategies to prepare for and respond to both of these effects.

In addition to these expanded income and benefit models, the City is working to improve the experience of applying for and receiving benefits and services. This work includes promoting expanded online access, increased collaboration across agencies, and using human-centered design for programs and processes.

Addressing the Racial Wealth Gap

Nationally, the race-based wealth inequality gap is widening. Between 1983 and 2013 the wealth of median black and Hispanic households decreased by 75 percent and 50 percent respectively, while median white household wealth rose by 14 percent. To address the racial wealth gap, New York City is working to build a more inclusive economy to generate enduring prosperity for businesses, workers, and historically marginalized communities. Through targeted programs, policies, and capital products, the Office of M/WBE has helped the City award $10 billion in contracts to M/WBEs, and more than doubled the utilization rate of M/WBEs across City Agencies since 2015, helping to increase community wealth in place. The City will continue to support programs to drive business innovation and community-wealth generation at the leading edge of social and economic change.

Bar graph displaying racial disparities between median household wealth.

Address High Living Costs and Debt Loads

In addition to promoting wage growth, the City is committed to mitigating expenses that create burdens for residents, especially vulnerable populations. Housing costs are often the biggest expense for residents, and rising rents can mean rising evictions. To lower the risk of eviction, we will strengthen tenant protections, expand vouchers to higher-opportunity neighborhoods, increase counselling assistance for voucher holders, ensure homeless shelters provide safe and livable homes, and continue to promote successful programs, such as the City’s Rent Freeze Program, which helps seniors and individuals with disabilities freeze their rents (see more in Thriving Neighborhoods).

The City is also influencing the national, state, and local debate regarding the student debt crisis. In 2019, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection will publish a series of research, policy, and public-awareness proposals.

As the population of New York City ages, families often struggle to meet the high costs of care to seniors. Additionally, many adults, often seniors, care for children or individuals with disabilities. A recent study by the Department of the Aging estimated that New York City is home to about 1 million unpaid caregivers taking care of family members. The City will explore responses to these findings to support families and caregivers in the decades ahead.