Experts Point to Lack of Child Care to Explain COVID-Era Loss of Women in Maryland Workforce

By Elizabeth Shwe, Maryland Matters

While Maryland saw a net gain of 13,000 men entering the labor force from January 2020 to June 2021, the number of working women fell by 57,000 in the same time frame, according to the Maryland Department of Labor. 

These numbers show that more men returned to work or began seeking work by June 2021, while many women had not, Jim Rzepkowski, the assistant secretary for the Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning at the Maryland Department of Labor, told state lawmakers at the Joint Committee on Children, Youth and Families on Wednesday. 

Experts point to the disparate burden on women to take up the child care role as children attended school from home and child care centers closed their doors during the pandemic. More women than men left work to take care of their children, often without paid sick leave, said Usha Ranji, the associate director for women’s health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

Mothers who are Black or Hispanic are more likely to be the ones staying home if their children cannot go to school. Among mothers who are Hispanic, nearly two thirds lose pay when they miss work due to a child’s illness, she continued. 

“It’s just really clear that women play an outsized role when it comes to health care for their children,” Ranji said. 

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