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The U.S. May Lose 20% Of Its Workforce To Child Care In 2020


As the new school year kicks in and the coronavirus pandemic continues, parents are making calculated choices to prioritize their families, sometimes at the expense of their careers.

In a survey this month, TopResume asked 2,122 working parents in the U.S. about their plans to accommodate their children's education for the 2020-2021 school year. They found that a staggering 1 in 5 working parents is considering leaving the workforce to manage homeschooling, remote learning or one of the other new educational arrangements that have formed in an effort to address the pandemic. 

One in 5 TopResume survey respondents, or 21%, said that one of the working adults in their household is considering resigning to accommodate their children's education, and nearly half (47%) reported that they have negotiated with their employer to modify their work schedule in order to accommodate child care.  

This is an increase over the findings of an April survey by pay equity software company Syndio. That survey found that 14% of women have seriously considered leaving their jobs because of the family demands created by the coronavirus crisis. Syndio reported 26% of Latina women said they were considering quitting their jobs, compared to 15% of Black women and 15% of Asian women.

Syndio also learned that just over 1 in 10 White women (12%) reported they were considering quitting their jobs to manage their children's child care while just 3% of their spouses were considering quitting. 

Women have been primarily impacted by pandemic-driven changes, and between social norms around gender and parenting and the lower salaries for women (as of July, women earned 84 cents for every dollar a man earned), they are the likelier of two parents to give up their job or career. 

Leaving the workforce to become a stay-at-home mom isn’t a trend exclusive to 2020. Women have been leaving their jobs for years due to inadequate maternity leave. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t make paid parental leave a mandatory benefit.

That factor then crashes against other influential factors like salary vs. the cost of child care, long-term career prospects vs. the benefits of parenting at home, and the degree to which they perceived having a career would negatively affect their family.

After increasing for six decades, the percentage of women in the U.S. workforce peaked in 1999 at 74% for women ages 25 to 54. By 2014, it had dropped to 69%. 2020 may see a dramatic further drop.

Some execs, like Shazia Juma-Ross, former global chief operating officer at Macquarie Capital in Australia, are leaving their jobs because this parenting vs. career calculus presents opportunity. Juma-Ross founded a child care company. 

But other parents are leaving because they make less than the cost of child care, because child care is in short supply, or because their school districts haven’t offered a manageable or safe alternative to traditional in-classroom schooling.

When the threat of the coronavirus shuttered her daughter’s kindergarten and pre-K programs, warehouse worker Jacqueline Carcamo in Garland, Texas, left her job this spring. She expected the closures would be a short-term challenge, but as the Dallas Morning News reported, that proved not to be the case. 

In May, there came the story of the tech company CEO who left her job to parent her son when her husband, who managed a rental property, tried to handle child care for "a grand total of three days" and couldn't manage.

As of late July, building code inspector Rebecca Hill in Chico, California, and her husband were struggling to sort out how their 5- and 7-year-old children would attend school considering her husband is immunocompromised and undergoes dialysis three times a week. The couple can’t afford for Hill to leave her job but struggled to find workable alternatives.

Box store sales associate Anastasia Kroger told a San Antonio, Texas, news outlet at the start of September that while she feels safe sending her children to day care, the option is no longer financially possible for her after she left her job to oversee their virtual schooling earlier in the year.

Jessica Fernandez, an office worker in New Britain, Connecticut, has a 7-year-old daughter and 9- and 10-year-old sons who have some in-classroom schooling and some at-home schooling, but their schedules are staggered so she has at least one child at home every day of the week. She is working with her boss to find a scheduling solution, but if it doesn’t work out, she will reluctantly leave her job.

“We have a lot of single parents in the building. Everyone has concerns about what to do to keep a job and find child care,” Fernandez told the Hartford Courant. “I don’t want to live off unemployment, but there may be nothing else I really can do.”

Employers are under fire to find solutions for parents that will help them do it all. Until they do, they may be losing talent.

“For me, putting my two young children in day care would have cost me more than $30K each year,” professional writer Kimberly Zapata wrote in an op-ed. “So I left my heart and dreams on Fifth Avenue. After 13 months at my job, I said goodbye to my colleagues and friends and became the stay-at-home mom I never thought I’d be.”

Related Topics: Working from home, TopResume