In The Biden Agenda for Women, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have pledged to pursue an “aggressive and comprehensive plan to further women’s economic and physical security and ensure that women can fully exercise their civil rights.” It’s part of the Biden blueprint to “build back better,” and after four years of the Trump administration’s destructive roll-backs of women’s rights, it’s about time.
The Biden-Harris administration has already established its ambitious agenda for advancing women’s rights in areas such as health care, reproductive rights, economic security, family life, education and gender-based violence. With this plan in mind, Ms. spoke to leading policymakers, advocates and activists to learn what women can expect—and hope for—in 2021 and beyond.
“The pandemic has really highlighted … the inequalities … the precarity of women’s work,” Rep. Katherine Clark (D- Mass.), the newly elected assistant speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, told Ms. “Biden has a deep commitment and understanding that if we are not addressing the health needs of women, the policies that allow women to work, we are not going to be able to restore the health of communities and families and we will never be able to restore the health of our economy.”
Federal and state governments have provided only spotty programs to address the vast need for high-quality, low-cost child care. The resulting burdens have fallen disproportionately on women, who still do most unpaid household labor and child care. A 2016 study from the Center for American Progress found that a woman in her 20s who leaves the work force for five years to care for her young children earns nearly 20 percent less over her lifetime.
But what good option do women have? Child care is expensive, costing roughly double the price of a year’s tuition at an in-state public university and up to 37 percent of a single parent’s household income.
The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the care crisis. With child care centers and schools closed, women have once again stepped up to do the unpaid labor of caring for society’s youngest members.
And the economic impact is stark: According to a recent report by the Center for American Progress, roughly 865,000 women had dropped out of the labor force in September alone compared with 216,000 men, with one in four women citing a lack of child care as the reason. In January, a staggering report from the National Women’s Law Center revealed that 100 percent of the jobs lost in December were women’s jobs, with women losing 156,000 jobs and men gaining 16,000.
The pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to the U.S. child care sector, which was already incapable of supporting all families; hanging in the balance now are 4.5 million child care slots that could be lost permanently. Women will likely feel the impact for decades.
...Fewer than one in six U.S. workers have access to paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a sick family member. Biden and Harris want to guarantee that all workers have access to up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, can earn seven days of paid sick leave (although a better policy would provide two weeks of sick leave) and have fair and flexible schedules so they can more easily manage their families and careers.
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and business leaders around the country, including local chambers of commerce, are coming forward and saying we need help with child care. I think it has taken something as devas- tating as a pandemic that exposed all these frailties of our systems,” Clark told Ms., adding that for businesses, “there is a shift in understanding that this is fundamental infrastructure, that we can no longer treat it like a private decision between families and child care providers. That investing in child care providers and tackling the affordability and accessibility issues are going to be key to keeping a workforce so that we can reopen our restaurants and our businesses, whether they’re on Main Street or in big corporations. If we don’t do it, we won’t recover. We have to push past outdated paradigms about what child care is and recognize it as a fundamental girder of our economy.”
...A recent survey from Time’s Up revealed that more than two-thirds of Biden-Harris voters categorize care policies as very important, as do a plurality of Republican voters.
“In order to have a strong economy and to not just go back to the status quo that never properly acknowledged and supported women in our economy and families, we have to build something that is more inclusive,” Clark said.
Original story here.