IDEAS: ‘She-cession’ hits working moms, children like tsunami

Note from Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: This guest opinion column by Vicki Giambrone appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique economic tsunami for women that many economists are calling a “she-cession” because women have been disproportionately impacted by the financial impact of the pandemic.

During the past seven months, women have been laid-off or furloughed at much higher rates than men.

Far more women than men have stopped working or seeking employment.

More than 1.1 million workers age 20 and older completely dropped out of the labor force between August and September, according to a National Women’s Law Center analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics September jobs report.

More than 80 percent of those Americans were women.

Why is this happening?

Women hold a larger share of front-line jobs such as childcare workers, restaurant servers and retail clerks. These service industries have been impacted the most by COVID-19, and as a result, they are forces to lay people off and even close, leaving their mostly female workforce, many who are the sole providers for their young children, holding the bag.

Interestingly enough, all of this is happening in the midst of an ever-growing stock market.

Add to that, women are still responsible for most of the childcare in this country. According to a report published by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve in August, without access to quality, affordable childcare options, it’s nearly impossible for working moms to stay at work or get back to work. One in five working adults said the reason they stopped working was due to lack of childcare. Not surprising, women were three times as likely as men to be impacted.

Even before COVID-19 made it virtually impossible to ignore the deep disparities here is the U.S., wage inequities have meant that single moms have struggled mightily with the ever-increasing cost of child care, which often takes up to 40% of their income.

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Now with many childcare centers and family childcare programs still closed, and with those that remain open facing much higher costs due to reduced capacity and COVID-19 related expenses, women find childcare completely inaccessible to them, forcing them to exit the workforce, even when their family truly needs the income.

But childcare isn’t just about women and their role in the workforce today. It’s also about our future workforce.

High quality childcare has lasting impacts on a child’s wellbeing and their lifelong success. Kids enrolled in quality childcare programs have shown greater language and math proficiency, and better social skills and interpersonal relationships. When done right, childcare prepares our kids for kindergarten, and for lifelong success, giving them the best opportunity to reach their potential and contribute fully in the economy.

Any successful economic recovery must include strategies that makes it possible for women rejoin the workforce and also supports the needs of our youngest children.

More affordable and accessible childcare will be key to bringing women back into the workforce. As policymakers look at future pandemic relief and economic stimulus, all of us should demand that they make quality, affordable childcare a priority, and leave no working mom or their children behind. It’s the essential investment for our economy and for our families and children.

Vicki Giambrone works on child health policy and is a partner at CBD Advisors, consulting in strategic communication, public affairs and government relations. She is a member of the Dayton Daily News Community Advisory Board.

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