Just Economy Conference – May 13, 2021
Over a year ago, women outnumbered men in the workforce, the first time it happened since 2010. What a difference a year (and global pandemic) makes. Just this past December, women accounted for 100% of the jobs lost that month, rounding out almost a full year of women bearing the brunt of the negative impacts in the ongoing national crisis. Some economists call this America’s first female recession, or “she-cession.” It is not hyperbole to say that the drastic slashes in jobs, income and career development for women as a result of the COVID-19 national crisis may cause a setback to the economic growth of an entire generation of women, namely women of color. Join us for a discussion on how the first female recession began, when it will be over, and what it will take for the predominantly Black and Brown women to regain economic traction.
- Diane Lim, Adjunct Professor, George Washington University
- Namatie Mansaray, Senior Director, Workplace Justice, MomsRising
- Vasu Reddy, Senior Policy Counsel for Economic Justice, National Partnership for Women & Families
- Sabrina Terry, Chief of Programs and Strategic Development, NCRC
NCRC video transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. They are lightly edited for style and clarity.
Hello everyone, welcome to the panel women in crises America’s first female recession. My name is Sabrina Terry, I am the Chief of programs and strategic development at NCRC. In this panel, we will hear from experts about America’s first female recession or known as the shesession, and what must be done to build America back better. But before we dive into the panel, I want to open with a quote that I believe characterizes our panel today. It’s my gift Google Mona. Women are the backbone of many structures. When you build women, you have built those structures. When you break them, you have broken those structures. That is why women empowerment should never be taken for granted. Just as the quote says, women are the backbone of society in the anchors of their families and communities. We play many roles and carry many responsibilities simultaneously. We do this in spite of systemic inequities that result in both wage and wealth gaps, difficulties accessing workplace benefits, lack of childcare, all while trying to maintain our mental, physical and emotional health. These struggles are not new, but the covid 19 pandemic exposed the economic vulnerability of many women and the lack of structures in place to support them. Since March 2020, over 2.3 million women have left the workforce. This past February alone, the labor force participation rate for women in the US was 57%, the lowest rate since the late 1980s. And according to the Labor Department, the declines have hit black, Latina and Asian women the hardest. Women have left the workforce for a multitude of reasons, but largely overlooked over-representation in industries that have been significantly impacted by covid 19, such as retail service and caregiving. 86% of the direct care workforce is female and over half are people of color who provide assistance to older adults, individuals with disabilities. The slashes and jobs, income and career development for women have caused many to leave the workforce. caregiving responsibilities for elderly and children is another major reason that pandemic has exacerbated the financial strain built by parents and caregivers, especially black and immigrant women who disproportionately provide for other families as well as their own. And in a Washington Post article, one in four American women who became unemployed during the pandemic by the lack of childcare twice the rate of men who said childcare issues caused their job loss. wage and wealth gap is another pertinent reason. While women about earn about 79% of the dollar compared to men, they own 32%. And women of color only pennies on the dollar compared to white men and white women. The absence of wealth is the absence of a security blanket. And the pandemic had those without that security blanket the hardest. Little to no flexibility as well as access to paid leave is also primary issues as well as mental and as well as the mental and physical health effects of the pandemic. But for many of you, this is not surprising to us, you might have a colleague, neighbor or family member who is experiencing this right now. The implications of women leaving the workforce is far-reaching, and has the potential to set back an entire generation of woman namely women of color, long term unemployment, as well as leaving the link. The labor force is going to show up in wages once women decide to return. the pay gap, in turn will have a big impact on how women are ready for retirement or their ability to build long-term economic security. This will be compounded for women of color who are more likely to come from low-income households and leaving them vulnerable to future economic downturns. But to be clear, this is not just a recount of how the first female recession began. It’s a targeted discussion about how We can collectively work together to build a robust economic recovery that centers around black Latinx Asian and immigrant women to ensure it effectively serves us all. And as a closed state, we must build women to build sustainable structures. And so with that, I’d like to pass it over to our panel of women leaders who will outline what must be done for us to move forward. We’ll start off with Diane Lim, also known as The Economist mom.
Thank you for having me. I am an economist who works in the DC area in the public policy space. And I have been doing research basically, since the beginning of the pandemic, focused on the employment outcomes of in particular Asian females. Probably because I’m an Asian female myself, so I had a lot of motivation. And also because I learned early in the pandemic, that the Bureau of Labor Statistics and their monthly report does not break out Asian females separately from Asian males, even though for every other race category they do. So as soon as they started talking about this, she session, economists were talking about how this recession was hitting women much harder than men. Unlike the Great Recession. As soon as that was discussed, I wanted to see what was going on with Asian women. And I couldn’t see it in the report. So I had to dig for the data myself. So it turns out that the economic data, this issue about the BLS data, and only containing Asians as a whole and not Asian females, broken out, is a common phenomenon with official economic statistics. And that’s because the government collects data that are based on statistical sampling. And because Asians are still a rather small percentage of the population, when you break it down to Asian women, that’s an even smaller percentage of the population. And so the BLS has not been able to sample enough Asian women and Asian men to be a referee, what they feel is as statistically reliable as their samples for other race and gender categories. And so this is a picture of my first-grade class, if you’re wondering what this is, and, and there I am, and you can probably notice that I’m the only Asian face in the class. And there are no black faces, or brown faces. So I, I use this as an illustration that if you were to study, try to learn about me, within this population of this first-grade class, I would get lumped with the rest of the girls. And that would be a story of mostly white girls and that Asian girls. So I get swamped by the observations on the on the white girls in this group. So the same thing goes with employment stat statistics, or any other kind of economic statistics, as it turns out, that what we see in the economic data that are typically presented are averages or aggregates within the economy or across the population. And because white people make up the vast majority of the US population still, when you see statistics on men versus women, and you look at sort of what’s going on with women overall, that is going to be closest to the story about what’s going on with white women, because white women still make up most of all women in the US. So when we look at the first slide, that might give us a clue that there’s a recession that’s hitting women harder that hit women harder than men. This is a slide of employment to population ratio. And the women in this chart are in red, and the men are in blue. And overall all population is the black line. So it’s hard to see in this graph, because this goes all the way back to January 2019. I wanted to get a running start on this data, you can obviously see where the pandemic recession began, which is in March of 2020. March to April is where we see that big dip. And it’s hardly visible to the naked eye here. But the drop in women’s employment to population that red line is actually larger than the drop in the male line, the blue line. So employment to population, you know, has always been lower for women than men. But the drop the absolute change in employment to population was bigger for women at the start of the pandemic recession. And you see that as we progress through the rest of 2020 and into 2021. You see that both men and women’s employment has recovered almost You know, we’re not there yet, but almost to the employment to population ratio from before the pandemic, but and the differences between men and women seem to be about the same as they were prior to the pandemic. My point is that this gives us a limited view of this Shesession, we can see it at the start of the recession, the pandemic recession. But we can’t really see much about what explains this drop, and we don’t really see what happened to the women that were made worse, worst off in the start with a pandemic. Similarly, if we, if I were to look at employment to population by race, we see that in this chart, I’ve changed the color scheme a bit. So in this chart, red is Hispanic, Orange is white. But you can hardly see the orange line because it’s so close to the black overall line. And that’s because white people make up the majority of the population in the sample. And the overall sample. Blue is Asians, and green are our black people. So we have employment to population by race, you can see pretty much from this chart, that there’s always been kind of differences in employment to population by race, if you go back to early 2019, you kind of see what’s the case in sort of normal economic times. And then you see that the pandemic affected everyone very adversely in terms of employment to population. And then as we’ve recovered, you see that those rankings, you know, by race, are pretty much back to where they used to be, although everyone’s employment to population is still down from pre-pandemic. So that is one view across race. It turns out that if you split so the last chart was by race, and each race category, and women and men together, if I split that into women by race, and men by race, then suddenly you see that that story that we saw on the last chart of employment to population by race, was dominated by what was going on with men, because kind of the rank ordering by race corresponds to the right chart is men. The left chart is women here, the patterns are the rank ordering of who has the highest employment to population versus the lowest reflected the pattern in the male on the male side of the of the labor market. One thing you notice right away when I split races into men versus women is that women are much more similar than the men are across races, which is very interesting. Women apparently have more in common across racial categories than men do in terms of their labor market experiences. And that is an aspect on why this is a shesession is that it affected all women, in no matter what our race in very similar ways. The other thing you should notice in this chart, is that there are clues that the responsibilities at home affect participation in the labor market, because in some ways, the female chart is almost a mirror image or the flip side of the male chart, you see that African American women have the highest employment to population ratio, pre-pandemic, and are right up there at the top in terms of post-pandemic, the recovery thus far, whereas African American man on the right chart have always had the lowest employment to population ratio. And they continue post-pandemic, or, as we recover from the pandemic, I shouldn’t say post, as we’re recovering from the pandemic, they also maintain their rank as having the lowest employment to population ratio. Meanwhile, for the women, you know, for the women, Asian and Hispanic, the blue, and the red lines on the left chart, have relatively low employment to population ratio suffered a lot, a big drop during the beginning of the pandemic, and are slowest to come back to sort of pre-pandemic levels of employment. Whereas on the right chart, the Asian men in blue, again, Hispanic men and red have relatively high employment status compared to other race categories, including higher than white men, which is interesting, I think so. So there’s, you see that the patterns across men versus women and across race categories, diverse, this is a clue that maybe there’s something about household structure and culture that is affecting these patterns by race and gender. Okay, so as an economist, you know, the first thing that I was interested in was how different this recession looks just from looking at the employment data. This pandemic recession has been different from prior economic recessions. The one we’re most familiar with is our most recent one. recent past recession, the Great Recession, which was unusually prolonged recession, it had a very slow recovery. And it was fairly deep. And but this recession has been quite different. Because unlike the great recession that was, and most economic recessions that are brought on by some kind of underlying systemic, economic or financial weakness, that spills over into crisis, this recession was, of course, brought on by a public health pandemic. So that is the triggering event that brought us into an economic downturn. The problem for the economy in this recession has not just been an adequate demand to meet productive capacity. So in other words, it’s not a problem of just the fact that people suddenly have reduced income. And so they can’t continue to buy goods and services that end up supporting employers have companies to keep keep the same number of workers on payroll, this is not just a problem of inadequate demand, it is a freezing up the pandemic condition was a freezing up of both the demand and the supply sides of the economy. So everything you know, even if we were able to work physically available to work, we may not have been permitted to work because the business that we work for was shut down, at least temporarily. And so there was a an inadequate demand, because people couldn’t go out to shop. That was true, there was also inadequate or frozen up supply because people weren’t allowed to go and work. So because of this unusual pattern of this freezing up of both the demand and supply sides of the economy, we’ve seen a disproportionate effect on women. Because of the nature of the shutdown, the fact that we had to stay at home basically, which meant that not just workers had to stay at home. But kids had to stay at home, maybe some elderly parents were brought back to home out of elder care facilities, because their family members felt like it wasn’t safe for them to stay in their assisted living facility. So they brought them home. In either case, it created a new demand for people time at home, and was competing against people’s availability to work for their on their usual job. And that’s regardless of whether you had a job by the way that you were you could work from home work remotely. Because just because you’re allowed to work from home doesn’t mean you’re able to work from home. If you have kids on either side of you that you have to help get through their school lessons, there’s a disproportionate effect on the on women on the demand side of the economy to because of the demand for their work the occupations that women are disproportionately representative, if you look at the sector’s most effective, they released leisure and hospitality, retail sales, health care, education, human intensive occupation service providing occupations, those sectors are all sectors where women make up the majority of workers. So women were hit on both sides, both because their work was not was being shut down more often. And because their the demand for their time at home was increased. So because of this very different kind of recession, the economic recovery strategy will be different to and this is separate from the public health recovery, you know, getting out of the public health crisis, the economic recovery strategy will have to be different as well from usual time. And so because this is not just a demand-side weakness kind of recession, demand-side stimulus is not going to be enough. We can’t the government can’t simply throw money out to households, and expect that the economy will recover right away. The government public policy is going to have to help the supply side of our productive capacity get freed up as well. So it’s not just the lack of resources. It’s that’s holding up economic activity right now. And because caregiving is such a part of what froze the labor supply of particularly women during this recession, we have to start thinking of caregiving as part of an economic recovery strategy, not just part of You know, economic assistance, not just part of social policy, caregiving will become a critical part of the economic recovery and should be thought of as part of our economic infrastructure. It’s critical to allowing labor to enter the economy. And if you think about it, it’s whether it is unpaid care work that is supported, like providing allowances for families to be able to stay at home and care for their children or their elderly parents, or whether it’s currently underpaid market, caregiving that’s provided, where if we could pay care workers a higher wage, more workers would be encouraged to go into that profession and the quality of caregiving would go up, and therefore more demand would be would be generated for that caregiving. So the ultimate supply-side source of our economic activity is actually people it’s, it’s what economists label human capital, but that just means people. And if you think about economists, how we tend to focus on how do we increase, you know, physical capital, financial capital in the economy? Well, before we get to those types of kind of secondary types of capital or productive capacity, we have to think about what helps get people out in the economy first, and that can be not just getting parents to be able to go into the labor market, but also just having more children and people feeling like they can afford to have more children, because that’s really cultivating our human capital from the very start. And so all of this points to if you think about an economist perspective on when as a larger role for government justified, there is a strong economic argument for government to subsidize and invest in the care economy, it is not just assistance. It’s not just being nice to people. And, you know, one of my final thoughts that I’ve been trying to challenge my economist colleagues to think about is this question of how big could our potential GDP be? You know, a lot of economists are talking about the Biden infrastructure package as being too big, it’ll overheat the economy, you know, we don’t want to give so much money from government into the private sector, we don’t want get want to give so much assistance to households, because that’ll generate too much demand for goods and services, too much inflation. And that will be harmful to our economic activity, it’ll be harmful to our economy, because we’ll have to lower the heat, lower the temperature. But one way I think of this is, you know, comments are so worried about overheating the economy. But most of the sectors of the economy that we’re talking about as contributing to the our potential economy, are sectors of the economy and people in the economy that have not even made it to the stovetop, and yet, they’re thinking they’re worried about overheating those parts of the economy. If you think about the underrepresented, and held back part of our population in terms of economic participation, we have never had a chance to see how much those parts of the economy in our society can do in the market economy. And so because we don’t see it, we haven’t experienced it. We don’t have historical data for economists to say, Oh, I know exactly how much we need to get our economy going. Again, we don’t really economists don’t really know. And so that’s my economist perspective. Thank you very much. And you can follow me on twitter at economist mom or on my blog economist mom calm where there’s this data is posted. There’s a lot of other charts there if you if you like, if you’d like to study them more closely. Let me stop sharing my screen. And let me now pass the baton to Namatie Mansaray, who will talk about something not so economic or she’ll, she’ll connect it more to real people, I think.
Definitely, definitely. And thank you so much, Diane. Let me share my screen with you all. Again, thank you, Diane, for that introduction. I’m really excited to be with you all today and honored to be on a panel with such amazing women who are leaders in their field. as Diane said, my name is Namatie Mansaray. I am a senior director at mom’s rising, working on the workplace justice campaign team And mom’s rising is an on the ground and online grassroots organization of more than 1 million people who are organizing, and also speaking out to improve public policy, and also to change the national dialogue on issues that are critically important to America’s families. So we work on things like working to increase family economic security, decrease discrimination against women and moms, you know, working to build a nation where businesses and families can thrive. We’re also working for paid family and medical leave affordable high-quality childcare and early learning, and also for an end to wage and hiring discrimination which penalizes women, especially moms and women of color, and so many others. So the conversation that we’re having today is really one that is timely and necessary. taking time off to care for yourself or to care for a loved one is one of the main reasons that women are exiting the workforce. And I always like to say that just about everyone has a caregiving story or know someone with a caregiving story. So if you could, for a moment, imagine a situation where you needed to provide care. Maybe you’re a new mom recovering from childbirth, or related complications, you could be a parent who’s caring for a newborn or an adopted child. Maybe you’re providing care for your domestic partner, or for a parent who’s ill, you could be supporting a sibling with a disability or even an older adult who’s one of your chosen family members. Or perhaps you just need time off to care for your own serious health conditions. Now, can you also imagine trying to juggle these caregiving responsibilities while working and with little, if any workplace supports or benefits, it’s clear that we’re in the midst of a female recession. And if you can’t afford to take the time off that you need to care for yourself or care for your loved ones. What does that mean for your job security? What does it mean for your economic security. And while this cuts across race, because of the inequitable systems that we have, black and brown women already start at a disadvantage, and the impacts on us are even more alarming. The data that Diane presented on was very clear, women have left or been pushed out of the workforce in high numbers. But what’s also clear is that black and brown women have been disproportionately affected. And below there are signs of recovery with 379,000 net jobs reported, reported we added in March. For black and brown women, the recovery is uneven, and it’s also been a slow road to improvement. In February, the unemployment rate for white workers fell to 5.6%. For black workers. That rate was 9.9%. And for Latino workers, it was 8.5%. So why are women leaving the workforce? Well, there are various reasons as to why so many black and brown women have left the workforce but one reason is the impact COVID has had on the prevalence of black and brown women in specific labor sectors. You know, those areas like hospitality, the food industry, retail, and also the public sectors, essential workers and frontline workers and those working in restaurants and housekeeping, the makeup of which is overwhelmingly black and brown women are barely managing financially, and across the nation there about 900,000 Latinas out of work, and many found it difficult to afford basic necessities like food, like household items, and even medication. What’s evident is that our black and brown women are falling further behind as this recession continues. Another reason that women are leaving the workforce is caregiving. Prior to the pandemic, the childcare industry was already struggling, but it was gutted due to COVID-19 and an estimated 20,000. childcare centers permanently closed. So families and women were unable to afford childcare. And they struggled to find alternatives or work around. Women, black and brown women who have dropped out of the workforce to care for their children have really also found it hard to find other employment within their field, or even be paid the same wages. And black women with children have been the most likely to drop out of the workforce and they’ve been Doing so at increased rates, and they’re also finding it difficult to find new jobs. So if you’re a breadwinner of your family and fortify four out of five black women, black mothers are, this makes recovery even harder. This means that families aren’t making ends meet, it means that their savings are being depleted at an increased rate. There are no rainy day funds to speak of, or to fall back on and many people are starting to rely on social services. And if you’re a single mother who can’t afford childcare, chances are you can’t go to work either. And this is more likely to affect black and Hispanic women. So when will it be over? This is a million dollar question, right. And I’m actually really interested in hearing what my fellow panelists think. But I think that it really depends on our elected officials, and how they decide to invest in our recovery and ensure it’s equitable. The recently passed American rescue plan is one way that can help move that little needle a little bit. The AARP provides a number of provisions that will help women and families. It provides investments in our childcare system through direct support to childcare providers, and then also access to childcare subsidies for families. It also ensures that families can continue to receive unemployment benefits if they need to. It provides significant investments in home and community-based care. And it also lowers premiums that make health care coverage, more affordable for families. But the work really continues. And the bottom line is that, you know, we still have a lot of a lot to do to work towards ensuring that paid leave is available to everyone. And the fact of the matter is that the cost of doing nothing is really too high a price to bear. So if we don’t act, families, women, black and brown women will continue to lose significant amounts in wages, businesses will lose in productivity, and the US will continue to lose in yearly economic activity. Also, family caregivers who leave the workforce early lose on average, almost $304,000 in wages and benefits over their life. And for women who took only one year off from work due to medical or family leave. They saw 39% less in later annual earnings than women who worked all 15 years between 2001 and 2015. The benefits of paid family and medical leave are clear. And they benefit women’s work prospects and also their economic outlook. So when we do act, in addition to making it possible for black and brown women to gain an economic foothold, paid leave will also help to eliminate the various for breastfeeding to women of color. And it would help address the maternal health crisis among black and brown women. It will also help to address the racism and inequalities of black and brown communities face in our public health and also in our economy. And then it will support eldercare and keep caregivers in the labor force because we know that many of our family caregivers are women. this past Wednesday, actually the Ways and Means Committee held a hearing entitled, paid leave childcare and the economy that failed women. And one of the witnesses toy Spencer. She’s a single mother and she’s also a mom’s rising member. She really gave a powerful statement about being a new mother and then also struggling with without access to paid leave and childcare. And one of the things that she mentioned that really struck me was that she said if we want a return on investment, the first thing we need to do is invest. And I think that’s really the way to move forward. We need to you know, invest in our care infrastructure. We need to make sure that care jobs are good jobs, especially for black and brown women who were overwhelmingly working in the healthcare and hospitality and also the childcare sectors. We need the support of our elected officials to pass permanent comprehensive paid leave for all we need to improve the child tax credit, raise minimum wage, you know, listen to our call to create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants and really try to reimagine what safety looks like by investing in communities that don’t continue criminalization you know, and these this is how we we invest in a care infrastructure. And this is how we ensure our black and brown women gain economic traction and thereby helping our families and then also helping our economy to thrive. And so this is my contact information, feel free to reach out and I appreciate the time I have with you all today. And I will pass it to Vasu Reddy.
Thank you so much. And I will now share my slides. I’m here to talk about …it’s a really nice transition from the first to second presentation to mine, because we talked a lot about the numbers, the structural side of things, the cost, and benefit numbers. And I’m going to talk about what a good paid leave policy looks like, and why it’s an essential part of the care infrastructure. And some of the opportunities that are out there to advocate for making sure that the care infrastructure is a priority for lawmakers. So I chose this image because pre pandemic, this was a pretty common narrative or image that was going around a lot about the economy that women share, the labor force is increasing. Women were becoming the most educated population and black women especially. And women were increasingly participating in the labor force. But this has always been a really incomplete photo incomplete picture, because it failed to account for the fact that so women as women enter the workforce at greater rates, they increasingly became breadwinners for their families. The breadwinner, meaning they brought home a significant share of their family’s income. But after work ends after the formal job ends, we’ve all heard of the second shift. And that is the other part of the reality that is that has been missing from this kind of Rosie the Riveter, rah rah imagery, because women also provide the majority of caregiving in families. And that’s something that generally they do on top of their full-time jobs. And what do you do if your caregiving responsibility conflicts with your paying job, you have to make a choice, a choice between taking time off work that is unpaid, losing out on pay for however long you need to be out, and possibly losing your job. Because a lot of people are not covered by the job protection of the FMLA versus not getting the care you need to stay healthy or get healthy. And because women are breadwinners and caregivers, being forced into making this choice doesn’t just hurt them, but their entire family because if they lose out on wages, their whole families losing out on wages, they lose out on care, their whole family is losing out on care. So this dilemma was already a crisis for millions of workers before the pandemic for the millions of workers who don’t have access to paid family and medical leave to their employers. But the pandemic has really thrown a spotlight on it as, as nama Tina Diane has highlighted just how precarious The situation was for so many working women. So pay leave is meant to be his policy solution that will provide that will provide a way for people to take care of their caregiving needs without risking their economic security. So just to get into formal definitions here, paid family and medical leave is paid time away from work to address serious personal or family health and caregiving issues that require more than a few days. So this is something beyond just the flu or, or a doctor’s visit. This is something like welcoming a new child to the family or dealing with recovering from childbirth or helping a parent go through cancer treatment, or recovering from a surgery. These are the types of medical events that we think of when we think of paid leave. And why is it important? You know, we’ve already talked a lot about this. But it’s, it’s worth repeating that everyone gets sick, everyone gets sick, and everyone needs to be able to financially support themselves. That’s the universal. If you don’t have money to pay the bills, you’re going to be in bad shape. If you don’t have, if you don’t have the ability to take care of yourself, when you get sick, you’re going to be in bad shape. So without paid leave, workers are forced to choose between forgoing care or losing their wages, it’s a lose-lose choice. And without leave, we see negative health outcomes. We see financial strain, and sometimes bankruptcy, temporary or even permanent exit from the workforce. And on the employer side of things, employers have lower retention, the higher turnover, they lose out on some of the benefits of morale and productivity that pateley have. And this is especially important now, getting rid of this impossible choice is especially important now, because the people who can least afford to make this choice are also the least likely to have access to leads. So the lowest paid workers are the least likely to have access to leave. The workers who are in industries that require a lot of public contact, are least likely to have access to paid leave, and so forth. So there are it’s not enough just to have paid leave, though, you have to have a policy that actually works for especially women of color, especially workers with disabilities, immigrants, people at the lowest range of the wage, core files. And it has to actually be, you know, realistic for the people who are who is meant to help. So when we But fortunately, several states have, have passed paid leave laws that have given us a number of lessons about what makes a good policy. So first of all, their pay leave policy needs to be universal to all types of employers and employees. That includes covering all sizes of employers includes low-wage or nontraditional workers, and independent contractors, as that phrase is used very broadly these days to mean both actual independent contractors and people who really work as employees that are classified as independent contractors. paid leave policy has to meet a comprehensive range of family and medical needs. So we go based on the definitions from the Family and Medical Leave Act, and some of the state programs that have passed. And we believe a comprehensive pay leave policy includes coverage for dealing with your own serious health condition for a family member with a serious health condition, bonding with a new child. And in some states, there’s even leave for caring for a family member who’s in the military, or addressing domestic or sexual violence. And when I say family member, it says here on the slide defined inclusively, and that is especially important, again, to make sure that this is the Paley’s works for the people it needs to work for. We know that families don’t come in a cookie cutter shape. There are people who have loving familial relationships who are not related by blood. People who have distant relations, but really are like siblings. And so we want any policy to recognize this range of of family relationships and care relationships and recognize their importance. A good public policy has to have enough leave that it actually will help most people be able to meet their health needs. We typically go with around 12 weeks although some of the states have gotten higher than that. It has to have sufficient wage replacement to be affordable for workers. So if you are making minimum wage and barely making ends meet, and then you take paid leave and find out you’re only going to be getting half of what you were paid. That’s not really realistic stuff. Because if you couldn’t, if you were living paycheck to paycheck before, having your pay cut in half, then it’s not going to be sufficient to get you through this, this health events. And then finally, it needs to be protected from retaliation and job loss. Again, this is different for you simple, if you can be fired for taking paid leave, then you don’t really have paid leave, because you don’t have the job security that you need to be able to take it and not and not be not faced retaliation. The last, the last stressful aspect of safely that makes something a good policy is that the stress of the funding structure has to be sustainable. So there are a lot of so the first question that gets asked anytime paid leave is brought up is who’s gonna pay for it? Do we make the employers pay, but only if they want to provide paid leave? Which is kind of a system we have right now? Do we say employers have to prove have to provide paid leave and they have to pay out of their own pockets? Do we say employers pay out of their own pockets, but we give them tax credits or other reimbursements? Do we require that they buy third-party insurance or do we you know, incentivize them to buy third-party insurance. And then the final model is social insurance, which is a state-run fund that consists of contributions very small contributions made by employers and employees on each paycheck. This model has a number of advantages. First, because it covers all employers and employees, you don’t have to worry about small business carve-outs or other whether a business can afford it out of pocket because as an insurance fund, everyone’s drawing from the same common fund. It eliminates this large upfront cost for employers, so they don’t have to pay for that leave out of their own pockets. And that, in turn, actually helps small businesses compete with larger businesses, who are often larger businesses not gonna afford to provide this leaves more readily than small businesses can. And so small businesses have hard hard time attracting the best employees. Providing having access to the social insurance can level the playing field for small businesses. Another aspect of it that’s really positive is that it’s not tied to a particular employer. So if you do lose your job, because your employer does retaliate, or you work multiple jobs, all or you or you know, you’ve had some other unique employment situation, you still be able to access paid leaves, because it’s not tied to your employer to benefit from the government. And then finally, it’s sustainably funded, we have learned from the states that have paid leave in place, that they’re able to fund these programs with a relatively small payroll contribution, less than 1%, typically, and that those contribution rates Don’t, don’t have to go up very high or, or increased a lot in order to meet the funding needs from year to year. So 10 states, including the District of Columbia, which I know is not a state, but it have active paid leave laws for that apply to the private sector. And that’s where we get all this evidence that I was telling you about, about how these programs work really well. No other there’s no other state model that has been tried out by the states because this one really is tried and true. on the federal level for what they have for paid leave on in federal law, there’s not much there. So in 2019, federal employees were given paid parental leave. And the National Partnership was instrumental in fighting for that. There were in 2020, for one of the first COVID relief bills, there was emergency paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave for certain reasons related to COVID. But that mandate expired at the end of 2020. it there, there are still some tax credits for employers to help them out if they decide to provide leave voluntarily, but there’s nothing that I’m guaranteed that leave. And then there are currently efforts underway have been for several years to enact permanent paid leave for, for public sector workers and to and private sector workers, and to expand the federal employee paid leave to all purposes and not just parental. So all this is that policy matters, the details of policies matter. and elected officials need to hear that care issues are at the top of people’s minds right now, they need to hear that people are you they need to hear the stories of people who are having trouble balancing their care obligations, or who whose childcare center closed or who, you know, don’t have the ability to sustainably take care of the people they need to. And that can take the form of calling offices, you should look up the bill number that I’ve given you here the family Act, which is the federal paid leave bill that we have worked on for several years, with our partners in the paid leave world. So you should see if your Congress member is his co sponsor, and if they’re not get on the phone and ask them why. And show up at their town halls and really make sure that elected officials understand that this is essential to getting the economy back up and running. And I say that because it’s not the land tech really well about this, but just to re-emphasize it. Care is the work that makes all of the work possible. I believe AI Jen poo, who is a, a very central figure in this movement, how that’s how she describes care work. And what we’ve learned in this last year is that without supportive without investments in care infrastructure, our society and our economy cannot function. And so we need to be making sure that lawmakers are hearing, hearing from people that these are paid leave is important to them. And that’s the care infrastructure and the care economy has gotten ignored for too long. So yeah, so these are some resources that we have available and my contact info and I look forward to taking your questions.
Thank you, Diane, Namatie and Vasu for your remarks. Now let’s move into a q&a session. Hello, everyone, thank you for participating. We don’t have a lot of time for q&a. So I want to encourage participants to please put your questions in the chat, and we will respond to them as soon as we can. So I’m going to start off with a question just for Diane, really quickly. Um, Dan, can you talk a little bit more about how looking more closely at employment status of women by race has taught you about what is currently holding back what you call the supply side of the economy and from reaching its full potential?
Yeah, you know, I started out looking for the Asian women just because of personal curiosity, obviously. But then I discovered that what I’ve been looking at for women overall, was basically discovering was basically showing me what was going on with mostly white women. And that by not looking at women of color separately from the white women, I was not able to see the detail about what was going on with women of color. Women of Color have had the most dramatic changes in employment status and the most adverse impacts from this pandemic recession than any other women so then the white women, so I’ve learned a lot about the supply side constraints on women getting back to work. I’ve learned that it’s not just that they work in those leisure, hospitality human intensive jobs. It’s literally that they had constraints on the homefront that have prevented them from going back to market work. Oops, you’re muted, Sabrina.
Apologies. So, so much of what we discussed today has been, um, you know, a legacy ongoing issues that have impacted women and families across the country for decades, you know, centuries. And so can you talk a little bit more about, you know, how an economic recovery strategy or growth strategy needs to be different from what we’ve used to recover from past recessions? Yeah, so, you know,
I think that both the government and the private sector are gonna have to step up. We just got since we recorded that those presentations, we got a new employment report last Friday. And it shocked economists because they were expecting like a million new jobs. And instead, we got only 200, some 1000 new jobs. And what is going on is that employers are finding it not so easy to get their former employees back to work. And honestly, the longer this has gone on that people have been forced to combine work and family life at home, the harder it’s going to be to get us to separate those worlds again. And it’s not just a question of money, it’s not going to be just that employers have to be willing to pay higher wages. Instead, employers are going to be have to be willing to understand that people value flexibility and the ability to integrate their home lives and their work lives more easily, you know, with less sort of like bright lines between the two worlds of their two parts of their lives, and that women especially value that time with family. So I think a lot of women, we might have complained early in the pandemic, that we couldn’t get any work done because our kids were around us or we had to take care of our parents. But you know, as the pandemic as we, we the situation is lasted, I think a lot of us have gotten used to it. And finally, frankly decided we prefer this way of working, where not so much in conflict with what we do in the rest of our lives.
I want to circle back to something you said about fewer new jobs in the economy, because I think it’s a good segue into one of the questions that we receive in the chat around entrepreneurship. You know, often when unemployment is low, or there’s underemployment, people seek entrepreneurship as a supplemental form of income or their main source of income and in many households. And so I want to ask you, do you or ask the panelists at large? Actually, do you think that the pandemic will scare women away from entrepreneurship in the future?
I read I actually think that more women will want to become entrepreneurs, because entrepreneurship means you’re your own boss. And you control the way you work and the way you manage your home life and your work life together. So that’s my feeling.
I totally agree. I was actually just typing in the chat. But I think that it won’t deter women from pursuing, you know, their own businesses in the future, I think it’s a way for them to pay their own way and make their own choices for that’s best for them and for their families.
Yeah, especially as we’re seeing that some of the fastest growing job categories are in these areas that are dominated by women and women of color, especially. And that, you know, that is going to create a lot of fertile ground for, for innovation and, and entrepreneurship. So I certainly hope it will not deter women and entrepreneurs.
Indeed, we are really coming to a close and incredibly, incredibly short q&a, but I want to encourage participants to please send your questions over. Regardless, we will try to follow up with you. And then I think I just want us just toss it back to the panelists and see if there’s any closing remarks, any call to actions anything that you would like to share with some of the viewers today before we closeout.
I’m optimistic from a policy standpoint and a business entrepreneurship standpoint, I think we’re going to see more female leaders because more women are going to be willing to go back to work if they’re going to work for a female boss that understands what they want in terms of flexible arrangements that respect their home lives as well as their work
and Vasu posted in the chat that there there are now other proposals for paid leave and so I, you know, just a second that and say how excited I am that we have these options available and so we can pass paid leave soon. Yeah,
Thanks Namatie I’ll expand on that some so the Biden administration and the house way Ways and Means Committee have each separately released their own proposals on paid leave. In the way in the house, it’s a it’s actual bill text in the in the fight administration. It’s a little less detailed, but it’s really thrilling as an advocate. I’ve worked on this issue for seven and a half years. And I have never seen this amount of activity on the federal level. But it really is. It really depends on on Congress members and on the administration on on all lawmakers hearing from their constituents, that this is important to them that the end hearing personal stories about care and how paid leave would have helped or or did help you in a certain situation. And I really, I’m hopeful this moment feels like a time when we are actually reassessing the structure of our economy and putting and thinking about putting families and and communities and workers first. So I just hope we can continue that momentum and see some real change.
Indeed, that well, I want to thank you all for participating sharing this insightful information with us and our audience today and also to the audience for participating and listening in. I just want to reiterate that if you are interested in learning more about this topic to please visit NCRC. He’s women in crisis blog series that you can find on our website. But also there’s been a flurry of links that have been taken place in the chat. And so I encourage you all to look at those as well. And so, thank you, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the conference.