As districts announce their plans for reopening schools in the fall—many on a part-time schedule—the retention of working parent employees will be companies’ next great challenge.
According to a July 13 survey by parenting benefits and resources company Cleo of 136 working parents in late June, one-third (33 percent) of those surveyed report having at least one parent that has either left the workforce or dropped down to part-time, which is up from 20 percent who reported the same in Cleo’s April survey of about the same size. Of those who had already left the workforce, 70 percent were women. Another 27 percent of those surveyed plan to take a break or permanently leave the workforce due to COVID-related reasons, compared to only 6 percent of respondents in the April study.
With most parents working remotely while acting as daycare providers, teachers, summer camp counselors, chefs, house cleaners and more, it’s no wonder that the workload is unmanageable. With 65+ hours of chores per week (twice as many as pre-pandemic), working moms are spread thinner than we ever thought possible. And with not enough resources or support from our employers, it isn’t shocking that women are twice as likely as men to quit their jobs following the pandemic.
Though the sample size of the Cleo survey is too small to draw overarching conclusions, this isn’t the only data on parents abandoning the workforce. Previous studies have shown that moms are more likely than dads to leave the workforce when childcare is hard to find. The combination of stagnant wages and the fact that the cost of childcare has more than doubled over the last two decades means moms reported they were 40 percent more likely than fathers to say they had personally felt the negative impact of childcare issues on their careers in a 2018 Center for American Progress survey. Even moms who are able (and willing) to send their kids to daycare in the COVID era are getting wildly shamed for their decision. If this sounds like a lose-lose, that’s because it is.
With fewer women and moms in the workforce post-COVID, women’s progress is threatened and working moms are left in utterly dire circumstances (read: a widening of the wage gap, less women in higher-paid roles, and a shift in family dynamics). The decisions companies and moms alike make in the following months will impact families and women for decades to come. The time is now to show employees they’re valued through a family-friendly approach to reopening the nation.