New research, collected and released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and analyzed by the Brookings Institute, shows that in 2020, the mothers of young children spent about eight hours a day on childcare while spending six hours on average working. Chabeli Carrazana, reporting for the 19th, explains that the data are averages based on thousands of interviews by the Bureau of Labor Statistics with people across the country about how they spent their time on a daily basis between May and December 2020 when the pandemic closed down schools and childcare centers. Specifically, Carrazana reports that
- On average, moms with children ages twelve and under spent about eight hours a day on direct or indirect childcare last year while working an average of six hours a day, while dads spent an average of five hours per day on childcare while working eight hours a day. Data were not collected for nonbinary people or LBGTQ+ couples.
- Overall, moms spent twice as much time as dads doing primary care activities like feeding, bathing, dressing, or playing with children.
- Fathers of children between ages five and twelve did increase the amount of time they spent on direct care, but mothers of elementary school children still did three more hours of direct and indirect childcare combined than did fathers, even with the increased time spent by fathers.
The fallout for women’s careers has been described in a previous post. Carrazana cites the US Census Bureau as confirming that “in April 2020 alone, 3.5 million moms of school-age children shifted out of active work, moving into paid or unpaid leave, losing their jobs, or leaving the labor force completely. . . . About half of all moms were not working that month.” Hundreds of thousands of mothers left the workforce completely over the past year.
This “shesession” has been particularly punishing for women of color, for whom the unemployment rate remains high at 8.5 percent, compared to 5 percent for white women. In addition, single mothers, who typically have a higher employment rate because they are the sole breadwinners for their families, still lag five percentage points below where they were in January 2020 before the pandemic.
Labor shortages are in the headlines daily, but women cannot fully participate in the labor force without the availability of quality, affordable childcare. In fact, women’s participation in the labor force is the lowest it has been since 1988.
We must both get the COVID-19 crisis under control and fund childcare. Our economy and women’s careers depend on this.
Photo by Tanaphong Toochinda on Unsplash (BY CC 0)