By Renee Jiang, Francine Foner, Esq., and Ty Hyderally, Esq.
The economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted women disproportionately. More than 12 million women have lost their jobs and another 2.65 million have left the workforce since February. (https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf). This phenomenon has been coined a “she-cession” by observers of the economy. Moreover, women only recovered fewer than half of the 12.1 million jobs they lost in 2020. Id.
This is particularly the case for women of color, who are likely to experience a long-term impact on their economic security and wellbeing. For example, Hispanic women face an unemployment rate of 6.5%, more than double that of Hispanic men. (https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t03.htm). If left unaddressed, these trends will exacerbate existing inequalities and reverse decades of progress toward an inclusive economy for women and people of color.
One major cause of the “she-cession” is a lack of universal childcare, exacerbated by continued pay inequality and a lack of paid family or medical leave, or even federally required vacation time in the United States. In September 2020, when schools resumed but most of them were still in remote learning mode, 80% of the 1.1 million people who exited the workforce were women. (https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t01.htm (as of March 9, 2021)).
During negotiations on the latest COVID-19 stimulus bill, Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, suggested that improved federal childcare programs from the government might help pull more women back into the labor market. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA2Wwg3GSo0&t=7395s&ab_channel=U.S.HouseCommitteeonFinancialServices). Powell further commented that “Our peers, our competitors, advanced economy democracies, have a more built-up function for childcare, and they wind up having substantially higher labor force participation for women.” Id.
While the latest stimulus bill signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021 includes a child tax credit providing most parents with a monthly check of up to $300 per child, it does not contain any provisions for affordable childcare or paid family leave. Hopefully, enactment of federal legislation providing for paid family leave and creating a universal childcare program is on the horizon.
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