Bring back the women!

Published 02/15/2021
Bring Back the Women!
Challenges and Opportunities in 2021
There has been a perfect storm of conditions that have combined to push 2.5 million women out of the workforce in the last year. Due to the pandemic, there has been dramatic job losses in tourism, hospitality, leisure, travel and transportation. Adding to the conditions amplifying this perfect storm is the fact that the pandemic has forced many homes to double, or triple as classrooms and day care centers. This has created the add-on effect of many women being forced to cut their hours or leave their jobs entirely.
As reported in Brookings, a survey from May and June, one out of four women who became unemployed during the pandemic reported the job loss was due to a lack of childcare, twice the rate of men surveyed. A more recent survey shows the losses have not slowed down: between February and August mothers of children 12 years old and younger lost 2.2 million jobs compared to 870,000 jobs lost among fathers.
The trend continues. In September alone, 865,000 women age 20and older dropped out of the labor force, more than four times the number of men who left.
As also reported in Brookings, “…The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provided 12 weeks of parental paid leave through the end of the year and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provided enhanced unemployment benefits that reduced poverty rates. The CARES Act also provided direct aid to states to address immediate problems in education budgets and infused the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) with $3.5 billion to keep childcare providers afloat. But many of the most important provisions of these two pieces of legislation have expired, will expire soon,... The status of another relief package is totally unclear given the latest communications from the White House, and it seems unlikely these systems will receive any additional reprieve this fall.
There is no free lunch – literally
Everything costs money. What will, or could be, the cost of additional social programs intent on pushing the economic recovery and addressing societal short-comings regarding working women? Where will the money come from, or more precisely, who will pay? Much like the current minimum wage debate, how will it affect small businesses?
Studies have shown that the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) could be 5 percent higher if women participated in the workforce at the same rate as men. GDP is a measurement of the nation’s economic growth rate. The primary driver of GDP growth is personal consumption, so it would be fair to predict that raising the profile of women in the workforce, putting more money into households, would increase local, state, and federal tax revenue.
But would this be enough to prevent the costs of these programs from being laid at the feet of small business?
Obviously, every business owner wants, and needs to fairly address the needs of their employees. Currently, 6% of companies offer childcare benefits according to research by Clutch. For small businesses, the ability to offer childcare is simply beyond their means. An article in Clutch explains that “…despite tax benefits and improvements in employee retention, on-site childcare would cost at least $500,000 annually”.
Granted, there are options besides onsite daycare, but again, for small businesses, these seem a bridge-too-far. But, all is not doom and gloom. Small businesses have traditionally led the way in innovation, and we can do so again. As discussed by Sarah Hall, freelance small business journalist in a Gusto blog, there are ways to help your employees.
·     The Internal Revenue Service lets you claim 10 to 25% of the cost – or up to $150,000 annually of childcare costs
·     Negotiate discounted rates with local childcare providers
·     Offer dependent care Flexible Spending Accounts
·     Embrace flexible work options
·     Set predictable schedules
·     Cover or subsidize emergency backup childcare
If our businesses are to thrive in 2021 and beyond, we have a lot of challenges ahead of us.
Getting everyone back to work, especially women, is our number one goal. Doing this cost-effectively, for you, is a major goal for Available Staffing Network. We are ready to help you meet the challenges ahead. As you plan for 2021 and beyond, let us be your partner and trusted advisor. Together, we can make it happen.