Female workers have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Business closures in the United States have hurt sectors with high female employment, including retail, catering, and hospitality. Additional caregiving responsibilities imposed by school closures have also fallen predominantly on working mothers’ shoulders, forcing women out of the US labor force.
Between January-March and April-June, 2020, the average female labor force participation rate, the percent of women either employed or actively looking for work, in the United States fell dramatically from 57.7 percent to 55.4 percent. By contrast, over the same time period, female participation in the UK labor force fell only slightly, from 59.8 percent to 59.2 percent.
The UK government kept women employed by protecting industries where women are overrepresented and supporting childcare. The government distributed cash grants to crisis-affected businesses and temporarily reduced their value-added tax (VAT) rate. Childcare centers received a property tax exemption, and parents with reduced working hours were able to offset childcare costs through tax credits.
Successful measures to keep women in the workforce can inform COVID-19 recovery programs in the United States and promote a more inclusive recovery.
This PIIE Chart was adapted from Simeon Djankov and Eva Zhang’s blog post, “COVID-19 widens gender gap in some but not other advanced economies.”