One of the hallmarks of the pandemic job market is the number of Americans — especially women — who left the workforce to care for children or older family members. And it may be especially hard for them to return, according to one expert.
“People who are providing this care at home… are at an increased risk of not being able to take on another job or do paid labor,” Betsey Stevenson, a former U.S. Department of Labor Chief Economist, told Yahoo Finance (video above).
Calling the dilemma a “chicken and the egg problem,” Stevenson noted that even if caregivers may want to go back to work, they may not be able to because there are not enough childcare workers and nursing home employees to take on the workload left behind.
The childcare industry is missing 1 in 10 workers, she noted, while the nursing home industry is similarly stretched. The reasons are twofold. These jobs come with a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 at the same time these workers earn lower pay, making it difficult to attract employees.
While employers need to “hire people to be able to do those kinds of jobs if we want people to do other kinds of jobs,” that comes at a price in the form of higher wages, according to Stevenson. But that, too, can become a hurdle.
“That can be a problem for families that don’t have what it takes to pay for that more expensive childcare that comes with paying a childcare worker $16, $17 an hour instead of $12 an hour,” said Stevenson, who advocates for a policy solution to make it easier for workers to afford childcare so they can work outside the home.
“If everybody gets that wage increase from their boss, you could start to see that pushing through more normalized higher inflation past, say, 2%,” said Stevenson, noting that there isn’t that much of a connection between wage increases and inflation.
“Workers who are in the middle and sticking at their old jobs are not getting as big of a wage increase,” Stevenson said.
Ella is the personal finance reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @bookgirlchicago.