Unlike other recessions, the downturn caused by COVID-19 has hit women harder than men economically.
And a new report from Rutgers suggests that women are struggling to regain their status in the workforce, and could continue to do so for some time.
Female unemployment, which peaked at 18.4% in April 2020, has exceeded that of men through the end of 2021, according to the Rutgers Center for Women and Work report.
Most of these women are back at work, but not necessarily back to normal – making significant sacrifices related to the way they work, usually due to childcare issues.
“It’s the part of the ‘She-cession’ that nobody talks about,” said Debra Lancaster, the Center’s executive director. “Thousands of women are sacrificing full-time jobs, higher wages, health insurance and other benefits for the ability to care for young children and aging parents.”
In the last six months of 2021, despite the return to in-person school instruction, 23.1% of families experienced childcare disruptions, according to the report. Women of color and those with low incomes have shouldered the greatest burdens.
At the end of 2021, 5.2% of women held multiple jobs, compared to 4.1% of men, the report notes. In 2018, 4.4% of men held more than one job, compared to 4.3% of women.
“We’re also seeing people cut back on their working hours or having to watch their kids while they work,” said Sarah Small, the report’s co-author and an economist at the Center. “The child care crisis has never gone away for many low-income families.”
The report also highlighted the gender pay gap among those in front-line positions and showed how policies such as federal stimulus payments and the child tax credit have helped families low income – those who received the payments – to afford the essentials in times of uncertainty.
The report makes a number of recommendations to improve conditions for women and their families in New Jersey, such as ensuring the longevity of the child tax credit, strengthening housing protections, improving access and affordability of child care and improving access to mental health services.
Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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