Many women have left the workforce. When will they return?

NEW YORK , There was a time that Naomi Pena could do it all: She could work a full-time job while raising four children.

Many women have left the workforce. When will they return?

NEW YORK , There was a time that Naomi Pena could do it all: She could work a full-time job while raising four children.

When the virus pandemic hit early last year, her personal problems began to mount. She was faced with a difficult decision: her children or her job.

She chose her children. Pena quit her high-paying job as an executive assistant at Google New York City in August. Pena joined millions of women who have been left their well-paid positions at Google in New York City as executive assistants.

Pena, 41 years old, said that she had to pivot because the pandemic affected her family's lives. She also felt that she was more needed at home than she was at work.

She said, "I left a job that paid a high salary and had amazing benefits so I could spend time with my children."

Pena is a single mother to four children, ranging in age from middle school to college. She knows that she will eventually need to find another job or enter the gig economy to regain her steady income. But not yet.

The pandemic exposed the unjustified burdens that many women carry in caring for their children and aging parents. It also highlighted the crucial role they play in America's labor market. After COVID-19, the United States lost tens to millions of jobs. However, the economy has quickly rebounded and employers have posted record high job openings. Many women have resisted returning to work, whether they are willing or not.

Even though children are back at school, the expected influx of women to the job market has not materialized. In September, the number of women looking for work or working actually decreased from August. The number of men looking for work rose.

The male-female gender disparities for parents with young children are striking. According to Nick Bunker (director of economic research at Indeed job listings website), the percentage of mothers with children aged 13 and younger who were employed in September was almost 4% lower than pre-pandemic levels. The decline in fathers with young children was only 1%.

Janet Currie, an economist at Princeton University and codirector of the Program on Families and Children, at the National Bureau of Economic Research, said that "a lot of women have quit the labor force -- but the question is how permanent it will be?" "And if they do come back, when will they return? "I don't have the answers."

Many economists and officials, including Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve Chair, speculated that reopening schools would allow more mothers to get jobs. This has not happened. Some mothers might have been discouraged from returning to work by September because of the temporary closings of schools in some areas due to the delta variant. For the second consecutive month, the number of mothers employed actually fell.

Economists still believe that increasing vaccinations will lead to fewer viral infections and Friday's U.S. Jobs Report for October will show a rise in women employed. However, any gains are likely to be modest and it could take months for the pandemic to completely reverse its impact on female employment.

Currie stated that the main reason is the increasing difficulty in finding affordable and reliable child care.

Currie said that this crisis is "probably making some people's heads up for them because if they can't find childcare and you have small children, someone has to take care of them."

Experts point out other reasons that women are not working, including childcare. It is still a high number of people who don't work because they care for sick relatives. Indeed's surveys have shown that many people who aren’t working are not looking for work because their spouses still work.

According to a Census Bureau analysis, approximately 3.5 million mothers with children under the age of 12 lost their jobs, took leave of absence, or fled the labor market entirely when the pandemic began in spring 2020.

McKinsey & Co. has released a new report called "Women in the Workplace". It shows how the pandemic took a heavy toll on women who work. The study found that 1 in 3 women had considered quitting their job or changing careers. The study's authors found that only one in four women considered quitting their jobs early in the pandemic.

The report stated that women are more burnt out than ever, and the gap between men and women in burnout has almost doubled. In fact, 42% of women felt burned out in 2018, compared to 32% in 2020. Contrary to that, 35% of men felt burned out this year, as opposed to 28% in 2020.

Keryn Francisco (51-year-old ex-designer for The North Face) had to make a decision about whether she wanted to move to Denver with her company.

She decided to stay. As COVID-19 raged she became more comfortable with her decision even though it meant that she was unemployed and her severance payment was shrinking. To avoid overdrafting her savings, she has taken up freelancing and stopped collecting unemployment benefits.

Francisco, a single parent, wanted to be able to care for her son, 10, and her elderly parents in San Francisco Bay.

She said, "It was out a sense of responsibility. It was an obligation." "But, also, honest to be truthful, I did not know what was going on with COVID. There was fear and insecurity around things like the death of my parents.

Francisco discovered something that was not obvious to her: "I was burnt out." Now she is evaluating the conditions for a full-time job return.

She said that once you get off the corporate treadmill, it is possible to catch your breath. You do experience a change within yourself.

Many women cannot afford to be as picky as they want, even though they would like to. Tens of millions, including many women of color, work in low-wage jobs that make it difficult to pay rent, food, and other necessities.

Debra Lancaster, the executive director of Rutgers University's Center for Women and Work, stated that although there may be a shortage in labor, many people are still working and doing so because they have no other choice. They must work to provide food for their families.

Ashley Thomas, a woman in her 40s, stated that her sabbatical as a public policy advocate was temporary and that it provided her with the opportunity to reevaluate her career options.

Thomas stated, "I was able to take a step back" and take a break because I had been working so hard all my adult life. This is not a temporary break. It is a temporary break.

Thomas stated that there was no one trigger for her decision not to quit her job as a Jacksonville-based public policy advocate. Although she doesn't know how much, the virus was a part of her decision to leave her job as a public policy advocate based in Jacksonville, Florida.

She said, "I have relatives who are older and perhaps not in the most optimal of health that I was very concerned about." "We have two teenaged boys here, who were absent from school. This is really difficult for them to be away from school and not interact with their friends as much."

She knows that not all women can afford such a long break from their work. Thomas' husband is still employed and Thomas' two step-children are no longer in need of her close attention.

She said that women have been known to take on the emotional burden of running a household and then work on top of it. "It is probably natural that people have to reassess their lives, especially after a major pandemic."

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