The Joonko Effect

Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: A Community At Work

Posted by Joonko on Apr 29, 2020 10:25:00 AM

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Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month was established in 1978 by a joint congressional resolution to honor the traditions and raise awareness within and around this remarkable community. To celebrate this month, we gathered some of the most interesting facts surrounding the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. Historically, AAPI’s have overcome so much and it’s only fitting that we honor their progress.

8 recruitment methodologies -05A Look at the Population:

There are over 19 million Asian-Americans and 1.5 million Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the United States, which surprisingly only makes up 6% of the total population. However, The AAPI population is expected to increase to over 40 million individuals by 2060. This diverse community carries 48 different ethnicities, speaks over 300 different languages with 69% of the community being born in foreign countries. Sadly, though, even with these robust numbers, this community is still stricken by poverty with 6% of Filipinos, 20% of Samoans, and 38% of Hmong communities suffering the most. 

Getting into the work

AAPI’s makeup 12% of the total workforce and outpace other groups in terms of education and income.Which is unsurprising considering their commitment to family and economic well-being. However, with that said, we think it’s important to look at the intricacies of each group and its impact on the labor market. 

Participation in the American Labor Force:

Asian Indian - 24%

Chinese - 22%

Filipinos - 15%

Vietnamese - 11%

Koreans - 7%

Japanese - 5%

Other (Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian, 2+ Asian groups) - 16%

Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders - >1%

8 recruitment methodologies -07Furthermore, these communities fuel our economy in immense ways. In 2017, 10.3% of Asian-American and Pacific Islanders owned their own businesses compared to 9.5% of all other workers. And, in 2016, Asian-owned businesses employed more than 5.1 million workers in the United States, with 3.5 million working at an Asian immigrant-owned business.

When discussing gender within parts of this community, it’s important to note some of those disparities. It is true that Asian women outnumber Asian men among associates at U.S. law firms - 54% vs 46%, however, Asian men are almost twice as likely to become partners - 64% vs. 36%

And, as of 2018, only 8.4% of AAPI workers were union members— which disappointingly is less than any other group measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Likewise, in 2018, the unemployment rate for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders was 5.3% and Asian-American communities fell in at 3.0% in comparison to an unemployment rate of 4.0% overall in the United States. 

To make matters of the workforce worse, one-third of all AAPIs reported incidents of employment discrimination, the largest of any ethnic group in our economy. This number has grown increasingly higher due to the xenophobic effects surrounding the novel Coronavirus or COVID-19. 

Another extremely interesting aspect of these communities is the breadth of their skillset which is apparent in the diversity of occupations they hold:

Top 10 Occupations for AAPIs:

  • Software developers, applications and systems software
  • Registered Nurses
  • Managers, Misc. 
  • Computer Scientists, Systems Analysts, Web Developers
  • Accountants and Auditors
  • Post Secondary Teachers
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Supervisor and Sales Workers
  • Elementary and Middle School Teachers
  • Engineers


Fortunately, AAPI’s have carved out areas across the United States where their uniqueness and strength are appreciated and also celebrated. In a country that claims to be equal and accepting of all, the majority of AAPI’s have aggregated to 10 out of 50 states. Top 10 States for AAPI Workers:

  • California 
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Hawaii
  • New Jersey
  • Washington
  • Illinois
  • Florida
  • Virginia
  • Massachusetts

8 recruitment methodologies -06Counting Down the Disparity

We know that diverse communities and women suffer from pay disparities, but looking specifically into the AAPI community, there’s a substantial break down and decrease for each ethnicity. Both interesting and disheartening. However, for women, the situation is even worse with women from Nepalese earring $0.50 on the dollar to Samoan women earning $0.62. Take a look at the chart below provided by the National Partnership for Women and Families to see just how severe the disparities really are. 

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Educational Pursuit

When it comes to education the AAPI community is unique, but the numbers can be perceived as depressing.  A report released by Pew Research indicates that overall just about half of Asians in the U.S. ages 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or more in 2015, a higher share than other races and ethnicities, but this share varies greatly by origin group. And, although Asian-American women are the most likely to have graduate degrees, they are least likely to hold positions within three reporting levels of the CEO. 


8 recruitment methodologies -09The AAPI community is extremely valuable to both our workforce and the global community. This is a community that has given so much to our country and continues to give more. Over time, as we see this community grow, we must embrace their gifts and celebrate their strengths while uplifting their success. We encourage you to look into ways to celebrate this community this month and always. We’re wishing you all an amazing Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and hope you stay safe and well as we allow our world to return to normal. 


To learn more about celebrating diverse communities, visit our website:

Topics: Diveristy Recruiting, Workplace Diversity, Diversity, Diversity and Inclusion, AAPI, Asian-American, Pacific-Islander