Before the start of the recession, women were playing a key role in the strength of the national economy and the economic security of families. In December 2019, they were the majority of the civilian non farm workforce and they were more likely to be bringing in all or part of a family’s income than ever before. This was especially true for Black mothers, four out of five of whom were the sole or primary source of their family’s income.
Women lost jobs at a higher rate than men because they worked in customer-facing sectors of the service economy — restaurants, retail, education and healthcare — that were hit first and hardest. In fact, two in five of the 12.1 million jobs lost by women between February and April had not returned by the end of 2020 and all 156,000 of the jobs lost in December were held by women. Black and Latinx women were disproportionately impacted by job losses.
In addition to losing jobs, women were forced out of the labor force entirely at four times the rate of men, most often due to the fact that caregiving responsibilities disproportionately fell on women. Between January and December 2020, more than two million women left the labor force entirely, including 564,000 Black women and 317,000 Latina women.
It is true, our nation sorely needs physical infrastructure investment. But we also need investment in our systems of support for human capital — for workers — to enable our economy to function. Each year, about 4 million children are born and 4 million people turn 65. Despite the growing demand for systems to care for children, people with disabilities and older adults so that parents and adult family members can work and support their families, the U.S. has one of the weakest systems of support among advanced economies and COVID has brought our patchwork systems to a breaking point.
Caregiving doesn’t just happen during the work hours. In fact, as a sandwich-generation working family caregiver, I often had to use my time off for...