A recent report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that Americans’ economic security is dwindling following the Great Recession, and that women and single mothers are reporting especially high rates of daily hardship.
Both women and men reported difficulties with paying for basic needs such as food, health care, housing, utilities, and transportation. Yet the survey responses, which are disaggregated by gender, show that the Recession has increased women’s economic vulnerability even more than men’s. As we have reported elsewhere, the persistence of the pay gap; the disproportionate, if small, share of the economic recovery that women have experienced; and the lack of realistic work-family policies are all factors in this story.
The survey asked not only about basic needs, but about job quality and access to workplace policies such as paid leave. Paid time off to care for a sick child or relative is crucial for parents and caregivers, especially for those in low-wage jobs. Women and men reported similar rates of access to paid sick days, yet 23 percent of women reported having sent a sick child to school as opposed to 7 percent of men. Almost 1 in 3 single mothers and 1 in 3 young mothers (aged 18-44) reported being forced to send a sick child to school because of an inability to miss work. Moreover, more than forty percent of both men and women stated that their work absences were tracked and they felt that they risked losing their jobs for missing work.
Job retention in these difficult economic times is crucial. Workers who do not have access to paid sick days, or feel that they cannot use paid sick days though they are technically entitled to them, are living with the stress of risking their jobs when making sure that their loved ones are healthy. Having to choose between keeping a job and staying healthy is not only detrimental to families, it impacts public health and ultimately stunts our economic recovery.