On May 8, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor issued its monthly employment report, which showed that the national unemployment rate jumped to 14.7% in April, its highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s; it said that 20.5 million people had suddenly lost their jobs due to the country’s lockdown, erasing a sustained rise of employment of the past ten years. A more detailed analysis of those that are abruptly working part-time instead of full-time and those that are not counted showed that the unemployment rate might even be higher. Moreover, the tightening of the federal, state and county budgets will inevitably furlough many more people.
In the previous recession of 2007-2009, the majority of lost jobs belonged to men, as the construction and manufacturing sectors ground to a halt; but this time the real losers are often women as thousands upon thousands of their positions as clerks, secretaries, hairdressers, health care aides, travel consultants, stewardesses, airplane and ship chandlers, restaurant servers and cashiers, dry cleaning employees, etc., evaporate. Once the lockdown is finally levied, albeit in various progressive stages according to the local public health characteristics, many of the once thriving small businesses that used to predominantly employ women will be gone. And there will be hardly any credit for entrepreneurial initiatives as the banks will be reluctant to lend.
Not only did women hold most of the positions offered in the Education and Health Care realms—the hardest hit sectors—but they were also furloughed in greater numbers than men. In a Washington Post article, Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam said: “Before the pandemic, women held 77%of the jobs in education and health services, but they account for 83% of the jobs lost in those sectors…Women made up less than half of the retail trade workforce, but they experienced 61% of the retail job losses. Many of these women held some of the lowest-paid jobs.” A large proportion of those workers are single women with children and members of the Latino and Black minority groups.
These disadvantaged single women usually lack a strong social or family support, for which they disproportionately rely on their children’s school services for their care, instruction, and meals. If they cannot take their kids to school, they will not be able to resume their previous positions, even if they are asked back to work.
In order to re-start our economies we must first help the women that sustain it.
Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.
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