Recession With a Difference: Women Face Special Burden
For millions of working women, the coronavirus pandemic has delivered a rare and ruinous one-two-three punch.
First, the parts of the economy that were smacked hardest and earliest by job losses were ones where women dominate — restaurants, retail businesses and health care.
Then a second wave began taking out local and state government jobs, another area where women outnumber men.
The third blow has, for many, been the knockout: the closing of child care centers and the shift to remote schooling. That has saddled working mothers, much more than fathers, with overwhelming household responsibilities.
“We’ve never seen this before,” said Betsey Stevenson, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan and the mother of a second grader and a sixth grader.
Recessions usually start by gutting the manufacturing and construction industries, where men hold most of the jobs, she said.
The impact on the economic and social landscape is both immediate and enduring.
The triple punch is not just pushing women out of jobs they held but also preventing many from seeking new ones. For an individual, it could limit prospects and earnings over a lifetime. Across a nation, it could stunt growth, robbing the economy of educated, experienced and dedicated workers.
Inequality in the home — in terms of household and child care responsibilities — influences inequality in the workplace, Misty L. Heggeness, a principal economist at the Census Bureau, concluded in a working paper on the pandemic’s impact for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Without a more comprehensive system of support, she said, “mothers will forever be vulnerable to career scarring during any major crisis like this pandemic.”
The jobs report from the Labor Department showed that some of the damage was reversed in October as the service industry revived, nudging down the jobless rate for women to 6.5%, slightly below men’s. But there were still 4.5 million fewer women employed in October than there were a year ago, compared with 4.1 million men.
And according to the Census Bureau, a third of the working women 25 to 44 years old who are unemployed said the reason was child care demands. Only 12% of unemployed men cited those demands.
文／Patricia Cohen 譯／李京倫、核稿／樂慧生