Affordable child care would attract workers in times of work crisis, experts say

  • Millions of people are “absent” from the labor market because they are at home looking after their children.
  • But raising wages or offering bonuses does not solve the labor shortage.
  • Businesses need to offer better benefits, especially childcare services, to attract more workers, experts say.

As a job crisis continues to hamper U.S. businesses, access to affordable child care could put millions of workers back into the workforce.

Access to child care was an issue before the pandemic, but the closure of daycares and the shift to working from home has exacerbated the problem. As Hannah Matthews, deputy executive director of policy at the Center for Law and Social Policy, recently told Kathryn Dill of the Wall Street Journal: “The pandemic has made the realities of child care in this country worse. ”

Child care centers experience many of the same issues as other industries – low wages leading to labor shortages, and access to affordable child care remains beyond the reach of many parents. As a result, many workers, especially women, choose to stay at home to care for their children. According to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center, more than 300,000 women over the age of 20 left the workforce in September alone.

“Women are not able to respond to the ‘help wanted’ ad if they do not have stable and affordable child care because they know they cannot be reliable and productive employees So they’re not applying for these jobs, “Gina Raimondo, the US Secretary of Commerce told Juliana Kaplan and Madison Hoff of Insider last month.

Recent estimates from JPMorgan Private Bank revealed that 7.5 million workers are currently “absent” from the workforce. While the largest share are those who feel they have a greater financial cushion than before and who, therefore, are not eager to return to low-paid work, a significant percentage – 23% – are not working for other reasons, including the need to care for their children.

At the same time, businesses nationwide have publicly lamented how difficult it is to fill vacancies. Small business owners reported resorting to hiring retired people or adding inexperienced workers to their teams; national chains hire teenagers to make up for staff shortages.

The labor shortage has led many companies to offer enrollment bonuses or raise wages to attract workers. Costco is now offering $ 17 an hour and Starbucks is also increasing their hourly wages. But additional pay increases or one-off payments do not solve the job crisis.

Mathieu Stevenson, CEO of Snagajob Hourly Online Marketplace, recently told Insider’s Áine Cain that he believes the benefits typically associated with white-collar work have “now become expectations and norms in collar jobs. blue”.

He described this phenomenon as the “white collar blue collar jobs”.


Gerald Herbert / AP

Better benefits = more workers

This means that if companies are to attract workers, especially young people, they will have to start offering better benefits – in particular, child care.

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, an industry group that partners with both manufacturers and unions, told Insider his industry is particularly tough because of the age of its workers, a problem which he described as a “demographic cliff”: A Substantial numbers of workers in the manufacturing sector are beginning to reach retirement age, which means companies must hire new, younger workers to take their place.

“Things like babysitting become more of a problem than your workers who are well into their 50s, who are empty nests or whatever,” Paul said. For many automakers, child care allowances haven’t really been a priority, and so “you don’t really see a car factory with a daycare on site,” he said.

Paul said that offering such a benefit could not only attract new workers – a job with affordable on-site childcare would have obvious appeal over another – but it could also help retain the employees these companies have. already have and may help prevent workers from quitting.

Some companies are already starting to make the switch. Emergency child care has become a relatively common benefit in 2020 among large companies like tech companies, but now McDonald’s franchises have the option of offering their employees emergency child care as well. . And childcare host Bright Horizons Family Solutions told CNBC there has been an increase in the number of employers using its services by a 20% jump in 2020 alone, CNBC reports.

According to Paul, this type of advantage is a no-brainer for companies looking to get a head start on hiring.

“Companies that offer better wages and better benefits generally have fewer challenges [hiring] than companies that don’t, “he said.” This is fundamentally tough labor economics law, and there is no wishful thinking that will change that. “

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