Enrique Lopezlira, director of the low-wage work program at the Labor Center, discusses how the so-called “labor shortage” isn’t quite a shortage.
Director, Low-Wage Work Program
Enrique Lopezlira is the director of the low-wage work program at the UC Berkeley Labor Center. He is a labor economist, directing and conducting research on how policies affect working families, with a particular focus on how these policies impact racial and gender equity.
Dr. Lopezlira previously served as senior policy advisor for economic and employment policy at UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza), one of the largest Latinx civil rights organizations in the nation. He also served as deputy director for policy and research at Western Progress, a think tank advancing progressive policies and change in the eight states of the Rocky Mountain West.
He also brings experiences in advising various government agencies and testifying at the state and federal levels. He is often asked for his economic insights and analysis by English and Spanish media, with appearances on CNN, CNN en Español, Univision, Al Jazeera, Politico, and the Washington Post.
Dr. Lopezlira holds a doctorate in economics from Howard University. He also holds a master’s degree in international management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from Arizona State University.
Employers complaining about the market should acknowledge that they are simply unable to find workers “at the wage and quality of job” they are willing to offer, Enrique Lopezlira said.
Enrique Lopezlira, the director of the low-wage work program at the University of California Berkeley Labor Center, said that the lack of access to child care and safety concerns are keeping many workers out of the labor force, particularly women.
Enrique Lopezlira, a labor economist at the University of California at Berkeley and an expert on the low-wage workforce, said the stories were a sign, albeit anecdotal, that the market was functioning as it should in the face of excessive demand for workers.
“Yes, they have to raise the wages because they were paying too low before but they also have to provide the kind of jobs that workers want,” Lopezlira said.
Despite the public outcry and ominous national data, Dr. Enrique Lopezlira, the director of the Low-Wage Work Program at the University of California Berkeley Labor Center, maintained that the reports of a labor shortage were contrary to the statistics presented by the government.
“Typically, where you have a labor market that has excess demand for workers, what’s needed is for employers to raise wages,” Lopezlira said. In economics, he explained, the “reservation wage” is the wage at which a worker will choose to accept a particular job rather than not work. “The reservation wage has changed for some of these workers.”
“Yes, they have to raise the wages because they were paying too low before but they also have to provide the kind of jobs that workers want. Stable scheduling, paid leave for sick or vacation leave be able to meet basic living expenses with their work,” said Lopezlira.
“The pandemic has affected the economy as a whole, but it has had an adverse disparate impact on sectors that primarily employ low-wage workers … retail, hospitality, leisure,” said Lopezlira. “The pandemic caused huge decreases in employment all at once, and re-hiring all those workers is much harder than letting them go.”