The Covid-19 pandemic has especially affected mothers and caregivers, as the loss of childcare options and in-person schooling, combined with the lack of adequate policies providing paid leave and job flexibility forces them to put their careers on the back burner to be there for their families.
Before the pandemic hit, unemployment rates for men and women aged 16 and over were equal: 4.4 percent for both men and women. During the pandemic, however, unemployment rates for women rose to 16.1 percent, while the unemployment rate for men only went up to 13.6 percent.
Research shows that the loss and closure of daycares, babysitting programs, and especially in-person schooling, directly resulted in more mothers dropping out of the labor force or reducing work hours. Parents agree that this is because mothers were taking on most of the extra responsibilities associated with at-home schooling.
To protect mothers’ careers from the negative effects of the pandemic, scholars and experts are calling on fathers to increase their involvement in the domestic sphere. A new study published in Gender, Work & Organization, finds that in households where fathers participate more actively in child-caring and rearing, the mother’s chances of escaping negative employment outcomes because of the pandemic increases significantly.
The study finds that mothers in different-sex couples who divided the responsibilities of childcare equally before the pandemic (meaning that fathers are responsible for 40 to 60 percent of childcare duties) were less likely to leave their jobs or reduce work hours. For every 20 percent increase in fathers’ share of childcare, mothers’ time in paid labor increased by three hours per week.
Despite this, relying on parents to divide domestic work equally will not be enough; this change must be backed by structural solutions that go beyond the home, especially while schools and daycares remain closed to protect our health and safety. Governments and businesses must support parents by making work-family policies that can facilitate mothers’ and fathers’ time at home such as telecommuting, schedule flexibility, and paid leave.