isIt’s a bittersweet thing to watch your baby fall in love with someone else. But for working parents, it’s the dream: to find a childminder or educator that your child is so thrilled to see every morning that you can escape almost unnoticed. When the chemistry is right, you give anything to keep it going, which is why bankruptcy of child care providers isn’t quite the same as other failed businesses. It’s not just the nurserymen whose jobs are going up in smoke, painful as they are, but small children’s sense of security and sometimes their parents’ working lives too. Each closure represents the collapse of a family’s precious house of cards. So why aren’t there more stories about a survey showing one in six early childhood providers say they don’t last all year, thanks to Covid-19?
The all-party parliamentary group on Women and Work, co-chaired by Jess Phillips of Labor and rising conservative star Laura Farris, will soon release the results of a detailed survey explaining the impact of the pandemic on the lives of working women. As they make clear, this goes way beyond the mad days of lockdown, when many mothers have carved out the lion’s share of home schooling and toddler arguments while still trying to do their jobs. real, and therefore lived in fear of being fired. (On what note, the report will demand that layoffs during the pandemic be recorded by protected characteristics – which should show whether women, workers of color, or people with disabilities are unfairly singled out.) The real problem is what happened. then passed. : Farris, a former labor lawyer barely prone to wild exaggeration, warned in parliament last week that “we are on the verge of a bloodbath in terms of women’s employment,” the economic impact of Covid appearing decidedly uneven.
Bars, restaurants and retail – all sectors dominated by younger women – are jobs hemorrhaging just as the brewery nursery crisis threatens to pull the rug out of working mothers. Many nurseries were already struggling, before Covid, as government funding for free places offered to parents of eligible preschoolers has not covered the true cost for years. They then suffered heavy losses during confinement, when they had to close all the children except the vulnerable and key children.
Even now, social distancing means some can’t take as many toddlers as usual, while others have seen parents take their children away after losing their jobs. Farris tells me that she worries that women are trapped in a cruel pincer movement: you lose your job, the local nursery closes, other childcare services are hard to find or too expensive, so you end up staying in. home until the children are in school. It was only then that you fell behind men who have not had a break in their careers. It’s a phenomenon we thought we left behind in the 2000s when the Labor Party started a huge expansion of child care spaces, but the pandemic is likely to turn back the clock.
But this is not inevitable. The report calls for a clawback fund to bail out nurseries – something Farris and other MPs have been pressuring the Chancellor on for months – as well as new initiatives looking at what could replace jobs in retail and l hospitality that young women are losing to Covid restrictions. But he also wants the government to dig deeper into what goes on beneath the surface of women’s lives: reinstate corporate gender pay gap reports, suspended during the pandemic, and release detailed assessments of how women and minority groups would be affected by any future Covid. measures, from lockdowns to economic stimulus plans. (If reviving a struggling economy simply means investing money in infrastructure projects like building roads and insulating homes, the nature of these industries means that more of the new jobs are likely to go to men.)
Already, a study published this week by the recruiting site LinkedIn suggests that the percentage of successfully hired women has been locked out, while that of men has increased; nearly two-thirds of successful job seekers in April and May were men, and 59% of successful applicants were still men even in the fall. This may reflect who is hiring – carriers and logistics companies have exploded during the pandemic, while the retail industry has laid off.
Even the shift to working from home during the pandemic, potentially a boon to parents, may not magically happen on its own. The percentage of jobs advertised as being able to be worked flexibly – whether part-time, job-sharing, home-based, or more minor modifications – fell from 17% before Covid to 22% in summer, according to the flexible work consultancy Timewise. But as CEO Emma Stewart points out, employers are still far more willing to change the hours and conditions of existing staff than to offer flexibility up front to new ones. The result is that women are sticking to low-paying part-time jobs that they have long passed for fear they won’t find another boss that accommodating. Farris and Phillips want to change the law, making it the default position to advertise jobs as flexibly workable unless there’s a good reason why they can’t. Boris Johnson’s 2019 manifesto promised a consultation to do just that, and his Equality Minister Liz Truss would be all in favor; it only remains to deliver.
For all of this is in many ways a test of something that we have heard repeatedly in the days following the expulsion of Dominic Cummings from Downing Street, supposedly by an alliance of female helpers and the bride. by Johnson, Carrie Symonds. We were told that the macho era was over; that the government would be reset on gentler, greener and more women-friendly principles. Here’s a chance to make that mean something. As Farris herself says, “It would be a disaster if we got out of this situation and found out that we have let women down.” All the more disastrous, perhaps, to have been preventable.