COVID-19 has exposed many of our society’s underlying problems. And with these concerns, a particular demographic has been disproportionately affected -- women. Working moms have been especially impacted by school closures and remote work mandates, as they attempt to manage working from home with the closure of child care facilities.
In the present circumstances, we realize how undervalued unpaid care work had been. Unpaid care work directly assists our society, as it supports the workforce and saves public child care costs. While the value of unpaid care is substantial - valued at $10.8 trillion worldwide- it is not accounted for in economic measures such as the GDP.
The significance of unpaid care work is much more salient with the coronavirus pandemic. Paid employment can only be fully managed when unpaid work such as child care is taken care of. Thus, unpaid care work is beyond inherently valuable, it is a productive asset to the economy.
According to a study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women in the United States spend 37 percent more time on unpaid care work than men. On average, women spend 5.7 hours per day on unpaid household work, compared with 3.6 hours for men.
As we begin to think ahead and consider reopening businesses, we must not forget the engines that drive our economy. They are not just the employees in the traditional workplace, but also the caregivers that enable them to work.
Public policy measures for women and children should be implemented with an understanding that they go beyond gender equality. Child care policies are not just for women; they allow for the workforce as a whole to be productive. This sheer fact should be considered as we prepare to return to work and “re-open” society.