Childcare and workforce realities create 'she-cession' amid COVID-19

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October 13, 2020

LBJ School, YWCA USA outline new policy approaches for addressing women's economic security needs

(TEXAS)—The LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and YWCA USA announced today the release of a new white paper, "America's Recovery from the 2020 'Shecession': Building a Female Future of Childcare and Work," which details how challenges and systemic inequities are contributing to this year's economic crisis and the disproportionate impact on women. The new report offers policymakers a blueprint for American economic recovery based on the intentional buildout of high quality, affordable and accessible childcare together with a concrete future-of-work plan for the female workforce.

The research paper outlines how national and local policymakers have failed to identify women's economic security concerns, despite overwhelming support among women, around key areas like childcare, equal pay and fair workplaces. The authors of the report demonstrate the ways the country's childcare system is failing parents, children, childcare workers and the American economy, and raise serious concerns about a future of work that will automate women out of the workforce.

"Social and economic policies have failed to keep pace with the advancement of women in terms of job access, and 2020 stands to wipe out all of the gains women have made in the last 50 years." —Victoria DeFrancesco Soto

"Social and economic policies have failed to keep pace with the advancement of women in terms of job access, and 2020 stands to wipe out all of the gains women have made in the last 50 years," said Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, the LBJ School's associate dean for civic engagement and lead author of the white paper. "This white paper provides a roadmap for greater economic growth for women, American families and the economy."

"Our country is finally waking up to the realities that women have always known — that childcare is intrinsic to our national economy and well-being, and that job security is critical," said Alejandra Y. Castillo, CEO of YWCA USA. "The concerns of women should be the concerns of policymakers at every level. This is a watershed moment, and an opportunity to build a future where women, families, and America can thrive beyond COVID-19."

Today's childcare system relies on a low-earning, predominantly female workforce to provide childcare that is insufficient to meet the needs of working parents across income levels. Researchers recommend establishing and investing in a high-quality childcare system that addresses availability, cost, quality, and equity to aid the nation's COVID-19 recovery and support long-term economic resiliency. This robust, comprehensive childcare system must also compensate childcare workers fairly.

In addition, gendered education norms and occupational segregation cemented an inequitable system that has harmed women's labor force participation and put them at highest risk of being replaced in the workforce by automated technology. A comprehensive investment in the future of work suggests that women, like their male counterparts, should be given a strong base for post-secondary STEM pursuits and professional development programs in fields or industries that offer longevity and security, where workers are not at risk of being replaced by automation.

Note: YWCA CEO Alejandra Y. Castillo is a 1998 LBJ School graduate. She visited the school in 2019 to deliver the keynote address during Hispanic Heritage Month. 

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