Women Disproportionately Affected by Pandemic Layoffs

According to CNN, women accounted for all of the jobs lost last month. They report, “US employers cut 140,000 jobs in December… Women [lost] 156,000 jobs, while men gained 16,000.” Since the beginning of the pandemic, 5.4 million women have lost their jobs. This is largely due to women having the majority of jobs in the industries that have been hit the hardest. Women account for the majority of the workforce in the leisure, hospitality, retail, local government and state government. This makes black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and immigrant women the most vulnerable to these layoffs without the hope of being rehired. USA Today writes, “Experts forecast that loss of skills, tenure and income among women of color will shape the U.S. economy for years to come by making it more difficult for moms of color to re-enter the workforce, earn the same amount as their white counterparts, and reach supervisor and management positions.” This shines a light on another way in which this pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color. The racial-economic disparity, that exists always, but has worsened in the face of the COVID pandemic, will have lasting impacts. 

The effects of this gender-gapped job loss will ripple out for decades. After a nationwide shutdown, states decided to slowly roll out a reopening plan. This was in an effort to put some of the people in high-risk industries back to work. However, this didn’t solve the problem with an incredible number of women being out of work. In June of 2020, there was a record job gain showing promising steps forward, but women were still left behind. According to CNBC, “between February and April, women lost more than 12.1 million jobs as a result of the coronavirus and only a third of those jobs returned in May and June.” The longer you are out of a job, the more it depresses your wages when you eventually reenter the workforce.

Many moms are leaving their jobs with no intention of finding a new job for a while. CNBC reports, “As the entire child-care sector shut down, women were losing flexibility at the very moment that employers were deciding who to lay off and who to fire.” Some kids are unable to attend in-person school and other after-school programs forcing parents, more specifically moms, to quit their job and stay home with their children. The inflexibility of most jobs forces moms into low-paying or part-time jobs, putting them in an incredibly unstable economic position. The pandemic has made this situation even more unstable by making jobs harder and harder to find. One mother quoted in the USA Today article, Black, Latina and immigrant mothers are losing jobs as COVID-19 childcare crisis grows, applied to 120 different jobs before getting one. The first paycheck she got from that job bought her 14-month-old daughter the first diapers purchased with her own money.

COVID Photo by United Nations COVID-19 Response on Unsplash CNBC urges, “Black women and Latinas have been, and continue to be, especially hit hard with unemployment rates… so it’s also important to recognize that solutions have to be focused not just on making sure that we build an economy that is promoting gender justice, but also promoting racial justice coming out of this recession.” As women lose their jobs at alarming rates with no evidence or hope that they will get those jobs back, America needs to put more energy into fixing this problem. The impacts will have lasting effects not only on the economy, but also on families and lives.

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