Where are all the women workers

The numbers don’t add up. The U.S. has misplaced a internet of 3.9 million jobs since the begin of the pandemic. Women held 2.3 million, or 58.2%, of these jobs. American households rely on women for his or her financial safety. So how are they surviving when hundreds of thousands of women are out of labor on account of the pandemic? 

Over the previous 5 many years, the share of breadwinning mothers has elevated by 166%. At present, women are the breadwinners in 40% of U.S. households with kids, and 71% of households in our nation depend on mothers’ earnings for his or her well-being. 

The dependence on mothers’ wages will increase for Black households. Since 1982, greater than 51% of all Black households with kids below the age of 18 have been headed by breadwinner mothers. Inside this 51%, 37 proportion factors symbolize households the place the mother is the sole breadwinner. 


Regardless of an optimistic November jobs report, the grownup women’s labor pressure participation price stays blunted at 57.5%—properly under pre-pandemic ranges. In reality, it’s worse than pre-pandemic ranges. Our economic system is working the manner it did greater than three many years in the past when it comes to labor market fairness. Where are all the women workers? If not in the formal labor pressure, may they be hiding in the informal labor market

The pandemic and the casual workforce 

Rising research recommend women retreated to the casual workforce throughout the pandemic. After they had been pushed out of the formal workforce, “disguised employment” alternatives introduced a viable margin of survival for women and the hundreds of thousands of kids who rely on women for his or her financial well being. 

Airbnb, as an example, launched research in Could displaying how feminine hosts have earned greater than $1 billion on the platform since the begin of the pandemic. The examine additionally revealed larger percentages of feminine hosts in comparison with male hosts who use the platform to “make ends meet,” and “keep of their dwelling.” 

Airbnb is considered one of many casual avenues women can pursue to safe their financial livelihoods. Of their e book, Making Ends Meet, authors Kathryn Edin and Laura Lein interviewed practically 350 low-income moms and located that all besides one depend on casual work—akin to cleansing houses, nannying, performing yard work, and gathering recyclables—to scrape by. And in lots of circumstances, they’re barely scraping by. 

Poverty ranges skew feminine. This was true earlier than the pandemic and it’s true now. Of all female-headed households, greater than one-third dwell in poverty. That’s greater than double the price of male-headed households and practically six occasions the price of married-couple households residing in poverty. Women are additionally twice as probably as males to dwell in poverty throughout retirement. 

Persistent hardship marks the presence of casual employment

The pandemic aggravated the financial misery of households throughout the nation. Regardless of COVID-era aid packages, hundreds of thousands of People are nonetheless wading in economically precarious waters. Whereas 35% of males say their monetary state of affairs has improved in the previous yr, solely 25% of women agree. The latest estimates present that at the very least 10 million kids have a member of the family who, owing to the pandemic, isn’t receiving a proper paycheck. Maybe that explains why 6% of kids in white households, 17% of kids in Black households, and 16% of kids in Latino households have gone to mattress hungry in the previous week as a result of they’ll’t afford meals. 


It’s one of these hardship and poverty that signals the prevalence of an off-the-cuff economic system.

Construction of the casual labor pressure limits analysis alternatives—and financial development

The character of casual work makes it difficult to symbolize quantitatively—given our present inhabitants sampling instruments, at the very least. Nevertheless, the corroborating proof cited above suggests many People, particularly women, could have turned to casual work throughout the pandemic. With out extra sturdy knowledge assortment, the casual labor pressure will proceed to be a blind spot. And that’s an issue not just for women but additionally for the economic system at massive.  

The prices of such knowledge deserts stretch into trillions of {dollars}. Insufficient details about how the economic system is working for half of the inhabitants—women—robs us of the $3.4 trillion alternative of gender fairness in the US. 

Because it stands, doubtlessly hundreds of thousands of women and their households are invisible to public coverage officers. Which means useful resource allocation fails to account for the distinctive experiences of casual laborers, who are disproportionately women. Failure to account for these people produces unfavourable externalities that ricochet all through the economic system. Those that want the most assist don’t obtain it; the tax base shrinks; client spending drops, and dependence on social welfare packages grows. We should not solely enhance knowledge assortment to seize the casual labor pressure in the U.S., however we should additionally use that data to tell coverage selections that incentivize folks into formal employment. 

The $3.4 trillion financial alternative of gender fairness

Women are 51% of the inhabitants. It doesn’t make financial sense to disregard them. Since 1970, women have added $2 trillion to the U.S. economic system by rising their participation in the paid labor pressure—and there’s nonetheless room to develop. If we closed the gender hole in formal labor pressure participation, we may increase our economic system by one other $789 billion. And if we closed the gender pay hole (one thing that received’t transpire below casual working circumstances), we may amend $512 billion to that estimate. 

Total, reaching gender fairness throughout all domains of life—at work, in politics, and on the homefront—represents a $3.4 trillion financial alternative in the U.S. The economic system wants women and women want entry to formal labor market alternatives to assist themselves, their households, and their communities. 

Katica Roy is the CEO and founding father of Pipeline Equity.