Story at a glance
- The coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic recession disproportionately affected women, especially women of color, many of whom were forced to leave the workforce.
- A new study found that women’s declining participation in the workforce is costing the U.S. economy $650 billion annually.
- Women are still overrepresented among caregivers, and many cannot continue working without sufficient paid leave.
Generally, time means progress. But in the last two decades, the labor force participation rate of women between ages 25 and 54 has dropped in the United States, according to a new analysis — leaving $650 billion on the table each year.
“I hear all the time from working moms who can’t even go to a job interview because they can’t find affordable child care, who have had to choose between their career and spending time with their newborn, or who have lost their jobs because they needed to care for a seriously ill family member—and I know this caregiving crisis is worse for women of color,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), in a release.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated existing inequities in the United States, one of the only major “developed” nations without paid parental leave. Without an existing caregiving industry, these responsibilities disproportionately fall on women, forcing many of them out of the workforce.
Now, it’s costing the U.S. economy. The analysis by the National Partnership for Women & Families calculated that GDP losses have increased by $97 billion compared to last February due to the decline in women’s labor force participation since the onset of the pandemic.
“Our lack of care policies is hurting women, hurting families, and—as this report makes clear—hurting our economy. It’s simple: when women don’t succeed, our economy doesn’t succeed—and that’s unacceptable. We’ve got a historic opportunity to help make our economy work for every family, by passing paid leave and making child care affordable—and I’m determined to get it done,” Murray said in the release.
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