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Pandemic Hits Working Moms Hard

The coronavirus pandemic has driven many to work from home if they can, which in turn has highlighted and compounded the heavier domestic burden historically borne by women. Statistically, women are more likely to have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, and job or not, women are still shouldering a disproportionate share of the childcare and housework burden. Both parents working from home are having to juggle competing responsibilities, but the data shows that women tend to end up handling the lion’s share of “domestic work” regardless of where they work for pay. For example, among married couples who work full time, women provide close to 70 percent of childcare during standard working hours. New office reopenings may further compound the burden and prompt even more sacrifices by women.

For many working mothers, the gradual reopening will actually force them out of the labor force or into part-time jobs so that they can care for children who still cannot go to day care, camp, school, or activities because they are closed for safety reasons. The impact of all of this could irrevocably impact earning potential and work opportunities. Women who drop out of the work force to take care of children often have trouble returning, and the longer they stay out, the harder it is to make up for that lost time. The economic crisis further magnifies these downsides. Wage losses are more severe and enduring when they occur in recessions, and workers who lose jobs now are likely to have less secure employment in the future.

According to a recent report from the United Nations on the impact of the coronavirus on women, “Even the limited gains made in the past decades are at risk of being rolled back.” Ironically, in February 2020, working women passed a milestone of comprising more than half of America’s civilian nonfarm labor force.