COVID-19 has pushed women out of the workforce in large numbers, and woman for woman tells the same story. Their husbands make more money than they do – those 82 cents that straighten their heads – so it only makes sense that most of their time should be left home and cared for children, many of whom need help with distance learning.
For this reason, 82 cents on the dollar is an ambitious goal for many women – because they give up years of income for unpaid care work. For employees on company retirement plans, men average $ 131,000 and women average only $ 88,000. Women also lose social security benefits because they do not have paid work. The women who are now leaving the paid workforce, despite working extremely hard at home most of the time, will face economic consequences for the rest of their lives.
President-elect Joe Biden has a plan to improve the situation somewhat, primarily by giving Social Security work credit for unpaid care work. This is an important plan, and a Congress should be passed as part of the COVID-19 relief. But it is not enough. We need to get to a society where women get paid equal so that the whole “He does more, so it makes sense for me to quit” argument dies. We need affordable childcare. We need our culture to value the work of women. Once again, the coronavirus covers and exacerbates existing inequalities and makes people who are already at risk more vulnerable.