Women to Comprise Half of US Labor Force

Nov 23, 2009

By Hannah Matthews

While the majority of those facing job losses from the current economic recession have been men, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the share of women in the workforce has been increasing. Women now comprise just under 50 percent of the country's workers, an increase of 1.2 percentage points since December 2007. It is an unprecedented event for half of the nation's workers to be women. The same article reports that child care centers and afterschool programs are reporting rising enrollment, signaling that overall high unemployment numbers have not reduced the need for child care. 

As of 2006, before the recent uptick in women's employment, 63 percent of mothers with children under age six and 60 percent of mothers with children under age 3 were in the labor force. Shortages of affordable, quality child care-in particular for infants and toddlers-raise serious concerns about where young children are being cared for while their mothers are working. It is common sense that parents need child care to go to work. And working families, who may be facing lower earnings during the recession, are having an even more difficult time affording the care they need. Moreover, difficult state budgets are leaving more low-income families without the assistance they need to pay for care. ARRA child care funds are helping, but as this historic demographic shift continues, child care assistance will remain a crucial component of recovery and a broader set of workplace policies-including paid sick leave and paid family leave-will be ever more important for all parents.

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