Childcare Infrastructure Is A Solution But Not THE Solution

Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)

If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions — tough questions, brave questions, you name it. The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.

The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.

  • Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.
  • Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.

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Childcare Is One Piece Of A Large Puzzle

Question:

I just read your article about getting women back to work after the pandemic. Why didn’t you mention expanding child care infrastructure as a way to bring women back into the paid labor force? Having reliable childcare was a huge reason for me to return to work after the birth of my child (and I know I’m not alone in saying that).

Answer:

Note: the article referenced in the question above is Childcare alone won’t solve our economic woes. This is how to get women back to work.

I’m a breadwinner mom who supports a family of four. During the pandemic, I joined the “sandwich generation” as I began taking care of my Mum who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I moved my Mum from her home in California to my home in Colorado so I could take care of her during her final months.

I tell you this because I get it. As people with families to care for, we don’t punch out at the end of the day. We don’t have nights and weekends off. We have economic priorities and we have kinship priorities. Oftentimes, these priorities overlap and when they do, we’re shoved between a rock and a hard place.

We are among the 53 million people who provide unpaid care to adult family members. The 16 million breadwinner moms who support 28 million children. The 41 million working parents who have children at home.

The economic value of our unpaid care labor represents 40% of GDP. So yes, expanding US care infrastructure matters. Full stop. Pandemic or no pandemic, our economy relies on the (paid and unpaid) labor of caretakers.

However, as I alluded to in my Fast Company article, we can’t focus all our problem-solving energy on caregiving as the solution to override women’s declining labor force participation.

It Will Take More Than Childcare To Bring Women Back To Work

It will take more than childcare to bring women back to work. Let’s look at a recent Morning Consult report to understand why.

Among people* who worked pre-pandemic but are no longer in the labor force, financial considerations are the most important factor driving their decisions to re-enter the workforce.

  • 40% of people would consider re-entering the workforce if their spouse or partner lost income.
  • 33% of people would consider re-entering the workforce if they could revive better pay.
  • 27% of people would consider re-entering the workforce if they had fewer childcare obligations.
  • 13% of people would consider re-entering the workforce if their children’s schools reopened.

In other words, financial concerns outrank childcare concerns for those who are considering whether to return to the paid labor force.

Moreover, an analysis from the Peterson Institute for International Economics concluded that childcare challenges during the pandemic “do not appear to be a meaningful driver of the slow employment recovery.”

Parents with young children — and mothers specifically — accounted for a negligible share of aggregate job loss between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021.

Between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021:

  • The employment rate fell by 5.7% (3.9 %-pts) for women with at least one child under 13 living at home, whereas…
  • The employment rate fell by 5.0% (2.6 %-pts) for women without a child under 13 living at home.

These reports do not discount the immense burden many women carry as they toggle between being an employee and being a parent. Rather, they provide visibility to some of the biggest barriers holding women and our economy back. Once we identify these barriers, we can create solutions to break them down.

Key take-away: We need to look at the big picture when brainstorming ideas to rebuild a more inclusive and equitable economy. Childcare is one piece of a large, complex puzzle.

If you’re curious about the solutions that I propose to rebuild a more inclusive and equitable economy (there are three of them), my Fast Company article will catch you up to speed. Read it here.

*The Morning Consult report did not gender-disaggregate their data. However, we can presume women constitute the majority of people classified as employed pre-pandemic but no longer in the workforce based on the data we have on paid and unpaid labor during the pandemic.

This article was first published on my website.

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© 2021 Katica Roy™, Inc.

CEO of Pipeline Equity | Gender Economist | Award-Winning Leader | On a mission to achieve gender equity, once and for all. www.pipelineequity.com