In states with closed schools, the gender gap between parents in the workforce exceeded 23 percentage points in 2020
Decades of feminist struggles for equality in the workplace have been undermined by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted public education in the United States, a critical care infrastructure on which parents, especially mothers, depend for. work, according to new research from Washington University in St. Louis.
The research, published in Gender & Society, draws on new data from the Elementary School Operating Status (ESOS) database to show that the gender gap between mothers and fathers in the workforce has grown significantly since the start of the pandemic in states where schools have offered distance learning.
And if these circumstances persist, it could deal a severe blow to mothers’ salaries and their professional future.
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Gender gap: research
At the start of the 2019-20 school year, US mothers’ labor participation rate was, on average, 18 percentage points lower than that of fathers. By last September, the gap has grown to over 23 percentage points in states where schools mainly offered distance learning. By comparison, in states where in-person education was more common, the gender gap in parental labor force participation grew by less than 1 percentage point, to 18.4 percent.
“Our research shows that schools are a vital source of care for young children and, without full-time in-person education, mothers were excluded from the workforce, ”said Caitlyn Collins, assistant professor of sociology in Arts & Sciences and co-author of the study.
“The longer these conditions persist, the more difficult it will be for mothers to fully recover from prolonged periods of inactivity, resulting in reduced employment opportunities and lifelong earnings.”
As the pandemic continues, states with significantly reduced presence learning are likely to continue to see one low participation in the maternal workforce with the potential for long-term devastating employment effects for many women with children, Collins added.
How do school reopening plans affect working parents?
Although the primary function of schools is the education of children, they also provide an extensive support infrastructure, especially for children of primary school age, which parents, businesses and the economy rely on, Collins said. COVID-19 has strained that infrastructure in unprecedented ways.
States have varied greatly in their approaches to slowing the spread of the corovirus and reopening schools, resulting in a mosaic structure of primary and secondary education in the United States.
They used the ESOS database to measure the percentage of school districts offering in-person, distance and hybrid education models for elementary schools by state in September 2020. Then, they linked the data to the Current Population Survey to assess the association between school reopenings and parental labor force participation rates, comparing those rates in 2020 with those seen before the pandemic in 2019.
In the paper, the authors describe the results of the 26 states currently available in ESOS and highlight three states as illustrative examples of the consequences of various reopening states.
Their results illustrate the vital role that schools play not only in supporting the well-being of children, but also in enabling parents, especially mothers, to maintain employment. According to Collins, in the absence of equal participation of fathers in the home, mothers bear the greatest burden of responsibility for raising children, both before and during the pandemic.
Maryland, where schools across the state were opened primarily remotely in 2020, experienced the largest decline in mothers’ participation in the workforce. In 2019, Maryland mothers with elementary-age children had a 90% predicted chance of entering the workforce. When schools opened in 2020, that probability dropped to 74%, a drop of 16 points.
Gender Gap in Italy
According to research by ODM Consulting, the HR consultancy company of GI Group, in the third quarter of last year the paycheck of Italian workers and professionals was 8.7% lighter than that of male colleagues, an increase compared to 7.9 % in the second quarter of 2019.
In our country the employment rate of women is one of the lowest in Europe, given that even before the pandemic, in 2019, it stood at around 50.1% against 68% of men.
The gender gap in employment rates in Italy remains among the highest in Europe: about 18 points out of a European average of 10. Italy presents today one of the worst gender pay gaps in Europe, as well as a chronic shortage of women in senior management positions. According to Eurostat the gender pay gap in Italy is 17.1% in the private sector and 3.2% in the audience with a disparity of treatment evident at the beginning of their career among new graduates, but which widens with increasing seniority and especially in higher career positions.
Even the Prime Minister Mario Draghi underlined “true gender equality does not mean a pharisaic respect for women’s quotas required by law: it requires equal competitive conditions between genders to be guaranteed. We intend to work in this sense, aiming for a rebalancing of the wage gap and a welfare system that allows women to devote the same energy to their career as their male colleagues, overcoming the choice between family or work “.
Article sources: eurekalert.org, Eurostat, Ansa, EIGE