The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll globally, devastating the economy and certain industries – some obviously more than others. But the pandemic-induced recession is a little bit different from previous ones that we’ve endured throughout history. In fact, one of the more notable things amid the economic fallout from this recession is how much more it has impacted women than men.
Consider this: Prior to the coronavirus’ arrival in the United States, women had hit a key milestone in the workforce. Yes, in December 2019, women in fact accounted for more than half the active workforce – something that they’ve done for only the second time in American history. This was largely due to big advances in women-centric services. However, this all changed in the early days of the pandemic in February and March, when women’s unemployment rose about 13 percentage points to men’s unemployment rise of about 10. The three-point gap is the largest it has ever been, and it led to the elimination of some 13 million jobs that were held by women.
Why are Women Leaving the Workforce?
As stated above, part of the reason for women leaving the workforce has to do with the industries where they made gains. However, there’s also evidence to suggest that some of these employment losses may have been voluntary, as they were needed to care for their children at home as schools and day cares shuttered. Studies indicate that even women who work largely still take the brunt of child care duties, and they certainly picked up the slack when it was necessary last spring and now into the fall for many students. According to a survey conducted by FlexJobs, nearly 65 percent of all moms reported handling child care responsibilities and some 80 percent of working moms said they took the household lead in remote learning throughout the pandemic.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Now in the fall months, things have changed – but how much? Millions of kids are still in remote learning, the economy is still struggling and while day cares are back open, they don’t look the same as they once did. The good news is that while this pandemic will obviously end at some point, the hope is that women leaving the workforce is also a temporary crisis. And nice things about these temporary crises is that they often serve as a catalyst for change. For example, more people are working from home now than ever – and even men who find themselves confined to home offices are sharing responsibilities with remote learning. Should men take on more of these roles, it sets an example for the next generation and helps with the splitting of responsibilities.
There’s also hope that a government-based plan can soon alleviate pressures on mothers (and families) when it comes to financing child care options and offering paid family leave.
The toll of the pandemic is far-reaching – and it’s clear that women, more so than men, are paying the price.