Originally posted on Forbes.
Kemberley Washington (Forbes Advisor Staff, Personal Finance)
Kemberley Washington, CPA, is a former IRS agent, news contributor, author, and owner of Washington CPA Services, LLC.
Korrena Bailie (Forbes Advisor Staff, Personal Finance)
Korrena Bailie is a Consumer Finance Editor for Forbes Advisor, and has been a personal finance reporter and editor for nearly a decade.
Millions of Americans have been hit hard by unemployment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic—but it’s becoming increasingly clear that women are being hurt the most.
A recent National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) study found that unlike past recessions, where men were often unemployed at higher rates than women, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced women out of the workforce at disproportionately high rates. Recent data from the Labor Department bears this out: 865,000 women left the workforce in September, nearly four times more than the number of men who left.
And even more alarmingly, the study expects that the pandemic will have lasting consequences for women for years to come.
For Some Women, Reduced Hours are the Only Option
Dedra Cameron, 53, is a hospitality worker in New Orleans and the pandemic isn’t her first brush with unemployment. She lost jobs during Hurricane Katrina and the Great Recession. But being unemployed this time is entirely different, she said.
"Before, I was able to find opportunities in different cities or states. But this time, the hospitality industry is suffering nationwide. We are all in the same boat. There is simply no work for us," Cameron said.
Cameron is a single mother of two sons. And while one son is independent, her second son is in college and relies on her for financial support. Prior to the pandemic, Cameron worked full-time at a local Westin Hotel for the past 14 years to support her household. But she was furloughed shortly after the pandemic outbreak forced most hotels and restaurants to close in March.
Like millions of Americans, Cameron relied on boosted unemployment payments to make ends meet. However, in the past month, her benefits have come to a halt, leaving Cameron uncertain about her financial future.
And while Cameron recently received a call from her job to return to work after eight difficult months, her workload has been substantially reduced. She now only works one day per week.
Having fewer hours—and less pay—weighs heavily on her. Cameron said she doesn’t know where her next month’s rent will come from.
And she is not alone. From February to August 2020, the average number of hours women worked fell 19 percent compared with men who only saw a drop of 12 percent. Moreover, one out of four women are expected to leave the workplace as a result of Covid-19.
Why So Many Women Are Leaving The Workforce
Prior to the start of the pandemic, for the first time in a decade, women surpassed men as a majority in the U.S. workforce. The Labor Department released a report at the end of 2019 that showed women held 50.4% of jobs.
But Covid-19 presents two different employment challenges for women.
One issue that explains the disproportionate unemployment rates is that some occupations have been more heavily affected by the unique challenges of the pandemic than others. A University of Pittsburgh study found that in some industries that were highly vulnerable to the pandemic’s effects, including food preparation and serving as well as personal care and services (such as hair salons), the share of female employees was 74%.
In previous recessions, any spike in unemployment typically affected men more than women. This is because sectors like construction and manufacturing, which typically employ more men than women, were hit hardest.
According to the NBER study, women’s unemployment rates increased by 12.8% during February and April 2020, whereas men’s rate increased by 9.9%. As a result, the term "mancession" was coined by an economist during the Great Recession to describe the impact on men.
The second issue that’s adversely affecting women’s employment is that women have had to take on the lion’s share of extra childcare and education for their families, as a result of continuing Covid challenges like school closures, remote learning and limited day care operations.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a management consulting firm, surveyed working parents in five countries, including the U.S. The study found that childcare duties increased an additional 27 hours per week during the pandemic. And while this number represents the time spent by both parents, there still is a great divide. Out of those 27 extra hours of childcare responsibilities, women are disproportionately affected, contributing 15 of those additional hours per week.
Jobless Women May Suffer Permanent Setbacks
Long-term joblessness increases the likelihood that an unemployed person will not return to the workforce. A 2016 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that the chances of an unemployed person finding a job drops by 50% after eight months of consecutive unemployment. This may mean that many of the millions of women who have already been forced out of the workforce may struggle to return.
A September 2020 jobs report from the Labor Department estimated that 2.4 million workers have already been out of work more than 27 weeks. Twenty-seven weeks is used as an indicator by the Department to identify long-term joblessness.
“The longer people are out of the workforce, the greater the chance they will no longer be able to return to their jobs,” said Dr. Nazar Mustapha, an assistant professor of financial economics from Dillard University.
So what can women do to fight these unequal effects?
Dr. C. Nicole Mason, president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) expects women will have strive hard to obtain future job opportunities. “Women will have to reskill, gain additional training and consider additional education, so that they can be competitive in a tight job market,” said Mason.
But she noted that women can’t do it alone—it would require a coordinated effort from the federal government to create and implement policies that specifically target getting women to return to the workforce, like giving families child care subsidies, expanding unemployment insurance and providing economic payments to combat the negative impacts of Covid-19.
Not only does the federal government have a role to play, but Mason says employers have a part to play as well.
“Women returning back to work will need support from their employers...this includes flexible workplace policies, paid leave, child care support, and flexible work schedules,” said Mason. “These things together can recoup some of the losses that we sustain as a result of Covid-19.”
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Original post can be found here.