Aracelis Bonet had to resolve to put aside his work to devote himself entirely to his son. Thousands of women in the United States are being forced to stay at home and give up their jobs due to a lack of open schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If I had been a single mother, I would probably be homeless today,” says the 50-year-old real estate agent from her home in Orlando, Florida.
Adam, 14, has autism. He needs constant care, morning, noon and night, she explains. A situation incompatible with his profession which requires availability and flexibility.
The COVID-19 pandemic is wiping out the slow progress made by women in recent decades in participating in the labor market.
A survey carried out between July 16 and July 24 by the US Bureau of Statistics shows that 24.4% of adults aged 24 to 44 were not working due to childcare problems caused by the pandemic.
But the proportion of women (30.9%) was more than two and a half times that of men (11.6%).
The continued closure of many schools in the United States is strongly criticized by President Donald Trump, who sees it as a brake on economic recovery. The debate began in the campaign with his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.
At best, Aracelis Bonet manages to work 15 hours a week against 35 to 40 hours previously. His income has already fallen by more than half.
“It’s very stressful and very frustrating”, she testifies, describing her endless days to advance her son on all the academic, social, psychological levels – without any help -, while striving, in the evening, to keep a minimum of customers. “I am a mother, teacher, therapist, I am exhausted.”
In September, the labor force participation of 20-year-old women fell to 56.8% from 69.9% for men.
Clearly, “COVID-19 has exacerbated inequalities between races, incomes and genders,” summarizes Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton.
The risk is to further widen the gap between men and women, especially in access to positions of responsibility in companies. Because quitting one’s job is to slow down the trajectory of a career for a long time, underlines the economist.
The scientific press, like Nature where the British Medical Journal, showed that researchers, forced to provide home schooling, were not spared: they publish fewer studies than men in this period of pandemic.
They are also less likely than men to have embarked on new research in recent months.
The lack of childcare or the partial opening of schools also prevent women who have lost their jobs from quickly finding one.
It’s a bit of a double penalty, said Gregory Daco, chief economist for Oxford Economics.
“Because the pandemic has hit women who held jobs in the service sector the most affected by the pandemic much harder. And statistics show that the return to employment is much slower for women than for men, ”he underlines.
Mary Proffitt, who lives in Lexington, Kentucky [sud], is part of. “I live with my 12-year-old son and my 88-year-old father, who has leukemia,” explains the 60-year-old who worked in a restaurant before being fired at the end of March.
For her, the return to work is illusory, because she would be exposed to the risk of being contaminated by the coronavirus.
Without health insurance, paid sick leave, and with a father suffering from an immune deficiency, this is simply unthinkable.
Moreover, what is the point of going to work part-time to pay for “ridiculously expensive” childcare facilities?
And to rail against the Republicans. “With the Democrats, we would certainly not be in this chaotic situation,” she opines.
“All my life I have been politically engaged. Since March, I’ve been even more so, ”she says, although she doesn’t think that the women’s vote in the Nov. 3 ballot can make a difference in a Republican-style state like Kentucky.