Many workers in the tourism industry and most residents of Hawai’i, especially recent immigrants, are struggling to make ends meet. An estimated 48% of Hawaii households do not earn enough to pay for their basic needs.
Hawai’i has the highest overall cost of living in the U.S. Honolulu has the highest number of homeless individuals per capita in the nation. Hawai’i’s workers often have to work 2 or 3 jobs to survive and live in crowded multiple family apartments or houses. Food costs are on average 33% to 50% higher than in the continental U.S.
Only about one in five workers in Hawai’i are union members with job security and benefits under union contracts. More than a half-million workers are not in unions and lack union-scale wages, retirement benefits, job security, adequate health care, and a voice in their working conditions. Nearly 40% of jobs in Hawai’i pay less than a living wage, and 14% of Hawai’i’s workers are in minimum-wage jobs.
In Hawai’i, an estimated 25,000 COFA (Compact of Free Association) migrants from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau are able to work but are not eligible for an immigrant visa–and they add to the ranks of Hawai’i’s working poor.
Of the estimated 40,000 undocumented immigrants in Hawai’i, about 40% are Filipinos and 10% Latinos. Some of these undocumented immigrants are victims of labor trafficking, wage theft, and exploitation. Many are unaware of their labor rights and human rights. Fearful of being deported, they are victimized by unscrupulous employers and have no access to medical services.