Millions of workers stay home to watch young children as daycares struggle

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One in 10 child-care jobs haven’t returned since the pandemic began

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children Individuals have returned to schools across the US and many daycare centers have reopened with vaccination staff. Still, a shortage of child-care workers is sending ripples across the American workforce, stymiing employers as they try to hire more workers and sabotaging the careers of women who would otherwise be in the labor force. choose to remain in

Household survey data released Wednesday by the US Census Bureau showed that more than seven million adults had to make adjustments in the past four weeks when children under the age of 5 were unable to attend daycare due to safety concerns. , which is in line with recent months.

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Experts say the unstable child-care situation is contributing to the lowest labor-force participation rate among women in the US since the 1970s. In September, more than 300,000 women aged 20 and older dropped out of the workforce, according to an analysis of government data by the National Women’s Law Center.

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“The pandemic has worsened the realities of child care in this country,” said Hannah Matthews, deputy executive director of policy at the Center for Law and Social Policy, adding that the sector was in crisis even before the Covid-19 shutdown. Some programs closed permanently, while others reopened with new, more expensive health and safety procedures, including smaller group sizes, lower employee ratios and social distancing, she said.

US economy faces new roadblocks to recovery: childcare crisis

Ms Mathews said many daycare centers that frequently close during the pandemic due to illnesses of staff or children lose so much revenue from tuition that they close permanently. Other centers are turning families away because they lack staff. About 110,000 child care workers left the labor force between February 2020 and September.

More than 100,000 child-care providers experienced closure early in the pandemic, according to a 2020 survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Since then, one in 10 child-care jobs have not returned. A recent survey by NAEYC found that 80% of child care centers surveyed were facing staff shortage, and half of the affected centers were serving fewer children.

Parents are usually on the hook as a backup. According to Census Bureau data, nearly a third of parents with safety-related daycare interruptions use vacation, sick days or other paid leave to care for their children. Roughly a quarter said they used unpaid leave, while the same percentage reduced their working hours to care for children. Nearly two million adults supervise one or more children while working. In each group, more women than men made adjustments in response to daycare disruptions.

Some parents have stopped working or moved into less demanding roles.

After giving birth to her first child in September 2020, Louise Manfredi returned to her job as an assistant professor at Syracuse University in January. She was awarded a semester of research leave, allowing her to take control of her schedule, and her husband worked West Coast hours for a biotech company, so the couple cared for their infant daughter while at work, while the other worked.

Coronavirus count: no child care, no economic recovery

The arrangement was effective but tiring, with Ms Manfredi working mornings, nights and weekends.

She was set to resume teaching this fall, but could not find stable child care. Having heard nothing from the local daycare, whose waiting list they had joined before their daughter was born, the couple began interviewing nannies, negotiating with Ms. Manfredi’s guess as to more than 50 potential providers. One woman worked for the family for three days before deciding not to stay at Syracuse, while other candidates objected to the couple’s preference for a fully vaccinated caregiver.

She opted to take unpaid leave from her tenure-track job for the fall semester.

“It feels incredibly demoralizing. I’ve only studied and worked towards this job so far,” said Ms. Manfredi, who is 36 and worries that her female students will improve their professional status. can be discouraged. “I’m stuck in a holding pattern that I haven’t placed myself in.”

According to recent figures, about five million adults who are currently not working, when asked by the Census Bureau about the main reason for their employment status, reported that they were caring for children who are currently I am not in school or daycare.

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After months of balancing her roles as a pediatrician and mother of a child and an infant, Jackie Crews decides to resign from her job at daycare. Although the St. Petersburg, Fla.-area daycare center that her children attended remained open, she said she and her husband, an attorney, were constantly worried about what they would do if it closed unexpectedly. became more.

Since she is at home, her children’s daycare was shut down after being exposed to Covid several times earlier, leaving the parents scrambling to make other arrangements.

“It only takes one person to get sick, who is 34 years old and has a stay-at-home parent since December 2020,” said Dr. Crews. “We don’t have any backup.”

Dr. Crews said resuming a career like medicine after being out of the workforce isn’t easy, but she plans to apply for the job again in 2024 after both of her kids start elementary school .


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