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California Worker Voices: anticipating the future from the frontlines

Rod Falcon, Marina Gorbis, and Vanessa Mason

With support from Irvine, in March 2021 the Institute for the Future (IFTF) released California Worker Voices: Anticipating the Future from the Frontlines. The report draws from insights gained through video interviews conducted in August 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with workers from across California who are paid low wages – and ties these workers’ experiences to broader workforce trends.

IFTF used ethnographic foresight – a qualitative research method used to understand how people are experiencing the present in ways that are likely to grow and have increasing importance in the future – to examine the experiences of California’s low-income workers and evaluate how current programs and services meet worker needs, where gaps exist, and how those gaps can be filled.

This report gives voice to all the frontline and essential workers, who were risking their lives during the pandemic. It showcases their motivations, their striving; being creative for income streams but facing an impossible environment that makes advancement very difficult. It uncovers some COVID-era work trends that may extend into the future and details solutions to some of the challenges gig workers face now and will continue to face in a post-pandemic world.



For more, watch this video to hear the workers – and some Irvine grantees – speak about this COVID-19 moment.