Why recession is a setback for women in the workforce

The Week –

Women have been bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s economic impact, said Shelly Banjo at Bloomberg Businessweek. Forget the smiling photos on social media of “moms baking bread and crafting with their kids between Zoom meetings.”

The reality is that throughout the crisis women have been “losing jobs at higher rates than men, represent a greater proportion of hourly workers that don’t have paid sick leave, and are shouldering most of the additional housework and child-care duties.”

In two-earner couples, women are more likely to leave their jobs to handle the child care; many are being forced to “scale back their career ambitions, leave the workforce, or sacrifice their sleep and mental health.” Women risk giving back a decade of gains in the workplace. “This pandemic is forcing women 10 steps back,” says Ashley Reckdenwald, a New Jersey physician’s assistant who was planning to switch jobs when the pandemic hit and is now staying home with her children instead.

The way this recession has affected women will have far-reaching consequences for any rebound, said Sarah Chaney and Lauren Weber at The Wall Street Journal. Women make up “77 percent of workers in occupations that require close personal contact and cannot easily be done remotely.” While other recent recessions have been what economist Stefania Albanesi calls “mancessions,” this one has looked very different; 55 percent of the jobs lost in April had been held by women. In other recessions, women have taken jobs when their husbands have lost them. But now there are no such replacement jobs to be had. That’s why, Albanesi says, “we can expect a much bigger drop in consumption and income for households than we do during a normal recession.”

More likely to lose jobs now, women will probably face a slower recovery, said Elisa Martinuzzi at Bloomberg. Unfairly, “crises tend to reinforce the idea that men are responsible for putting bread on the table whereas women take care of the family.” Women juggling child-care responsibilities will face a disadvantage getting back into the workforce, said Patricia Cohen and Tiffany Hsu at The New York Times. With fewer “hours logged,” those who still have jobs will find it harder to get promoted.

But some economists think that “the increased pressure on families could — over the long term — force structural and cultural changes” such as greater child-care options and more flexible work arrangements that may ultimately benefit women. One small early sign of a bright spot: Economists studying the coronavirus outbreak have found that men who are able to work from home — an increasingly common situation — “do about 50 percent more child care.”

You may find many other thoughtful articles at: TheWeek.com.

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About Radnor Reports

Ken Feltman is past-president of the International Association of Political Consultants and the American League of Lobbyists. He is retired chairman of Radnor Inc., an international political consulting and government relations firm in Washington, D.C. Known as a coalition builder, he has participated in election campaigns and legislative efforts in the United States and several other countries.
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