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Employment gap widens at the expense of women

Posted at 10:24 AM, Feb 05, 2021

The number of U.S. jobs fell for the first time in seven months in December. What’s notable is that women account for all of that month's job losses.

“Dr. C. Nicole Mason at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research called this the ‘She-cession’ instead of the recession, because of those exact trends,” said Melissa Boteach

Boteach works for the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and says because some structures of our economy, job losses are hurting women more than men.

One thing to note, men did lose jobs in December and women were hired for new jobs. But men net gained 16,000 jobs and women net lost 156,000, bringing our total to net 140,000 jobs lost, a loss for women.

What happened in December, isn't exactly new. According to the NWLC, women have lost 5.4 million jobs since the pandemic started, 55% of all the jobs lost.

“They are disproportionately front-line workers. They’ve been hit hard by because they are concentrated in sectors that have been hit hard by the pandemic, like hospitality, retail, restaurants, child care. And they’ve been hit hard by increased unpaid care giving at home, which has pushed many women out of the labor market,” said Boteach.

Melissa and the NWLC say that last point, lack of child care, has caused more than 2 million women to leave the workforce entirely.

“There’s no economic recovery without child care. This is the workforce behind the workforce,” said Boteach.

“Historically, there’s lots of research that shows that when there are child care interruptions, meaning something pops up, care falls through, kids get sick and have to go home. It is almost always moms who end up bearing the brunt of those care giving interruptions,” said Kate Gallagher Robbins with the Center for Law and Social Policy.

She says we are in a child care crisis and that’s hurting women disproportionately.

“What you’re seeing in COVID now is this perfect storm where in many cases, child care has evaporated, schools are obviously shuttered in many places across the country and it puts families in this terrible bind where often, they’re having to pick between safe care for their kids, staying home, and being able to put food on the table,” said Robbins.

The consensus among these groups is that a stimulus package needs to take child care into consideration and the industry needs billions to stabilize.

“We estimate we need about $50 billion in child care to stabilize,” said Boteach.

“There’s no way to support the system without a serious government investment. And so while schools need intense support during the pandemic. No one is afraid their school will not reopen. I think people are rightly afraid they’re child care maybe shut forever,” said Robbins.

These experts say safe child care during the pandemic is just the first step to supporting women, and keeping women in the workforce.