Omicron creates uncertainty for women’s labor participation rate

Amanda Peacher Dec 27, 2021
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The omicron variant could lead to another wave of women having to leave the workforce. Getty Images

Omicron creates uncertainty for women’s labor participation rate

Amanda Peacher Dec 27, 2021
Heard on:
The omicron variant could lead to another wave of women having to leave the workforce. Getty Images
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The pandemic has disproportionately hit the work lives of women, who tend to be the ones who step back to care for kids when they get sick or when daycares close. 

Many employers were originally slated to go back to in-person work in 2022, and now, omicron could act as a new curveball for women’s plans and careers.

Many women already know that when the situation with the virus forces change, their work changes too. 

“It sometimes feels like it’s hard to get one full week without one kid or the other, being home,” said Maura Mills, a mother of two and associate professor of management at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Her job is more flexible than her spouse’s, so she’s the one who wipes the noses or helps with homework when the kids stay home. 

“The vast brunt of it fell on me,” she said.

There are 2.3 million fewer women working today than before the pandemic, said Martha Ross, senior fellow at Brookings Metro. That’s compared to 1.6 million fewer men.  

“So there is a difference. And it’s based on the types of jobs that women have and caretaking responsibilities,” she said.

Omicron could cause another exodus, said Mills – especially if employers require in-person work. 

“If organizations don’t go back to some of those flexible policies that they had before with the incoming wave we could lose more parents” – specifically, more women, she said.

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