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COVID-19

Women three times more likely than men to not work during pandemic because of child care

Jasmine Garsd Aug 21, 2020
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Child care needs are part of the reason the current recession has had a greater effect on women than on men. Kate Sept/Getty Images
COVID-19

Women three times more likely than men to not work during pandemic because of child care

Jasmine Garsd Aug 21, 2020
Heard on:
Child care needs are part of the reason the current recession has had a greater effect on women than on men. Kate Sept/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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In the past few recessions, it was men who were disproportionately affected when jobs like manufacturing and construction took a blow. But COVID-19 has affected industries that tend to hire women. Add to that child care responsibilities, and you have what some are calling a “she-session.”

At the beginning of the year, women’s unemployment rate was lower than men’s. Then the pandemic hit, and the tables have turned. In July, the unemployment rate for women was almost a percentage point higher. And it’s more pronounced for Black and Latina women.

“Many of the sectors that have seen significant disruption, like leisure and hospitality, restaurants — those are workforces that are often disproportionately female,” said Jocelyn Frye, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. 

And with many schools announcing they are going remote and widespread day care closures, things are getting even more complicated. Using data from July, the Census Bureau reports women are nearly three times more likely than men to not be working due to COVID-19-related child care needs.

“I think that is a cultural and social norm, that women tend to take on the majority of care responsibilities in a household,” said Valerie Rawlston Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy. “And of course if you live in a household as a single woman with children, then you are the care provider.”

Experts are concerned about what effect this will have on the gender wage gap long-term. 

“A big driver of the gender wage gap is the fact that women are more likely to take some time out of the workplace for caregiving,” said Emily Martin, vice president for education and workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center. “And really what we’re seeing in the current recession, is that phenomenon turned up to … 11.”

She said now more than ever is the time for businesses and the government to look into better work-life policies — especially for women.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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