No Recovery Without Childcare
Access to safe, quality, and affordable childcare always has been an essential service for North American industrial metals workers. During the coronavirus pandemic, when parents are balancing jobs and schooling their children from home, it is even more so.
Earlier this fall, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation released a report that found:
- For the 50 percent of parents who have not yet returned to the workforce, lack of access to childcare is a reason;
- More than a quarter (26 percent) of working parents are paying for a childcare arrangement that they are not currently using; and
- Nearly three-fifths (57 percent) of parents who have not yet returned to work (22 percent of all parents) are unlikely or unsure whether they will return if their school district remains in online learning mode.
In a separate report, the U.S. Chamber also found that, while many providers have now re-opened with limited capacity, 86 percent are serving significantly fewer children than they were prior to the pandemic.
The U.S. Chamber Foundation is not the only organization that has arrived at these results. As CNBC reported in September, McKinsey & Company found one in four women are considering leaving the workforce or reducing their hours due to the impact of COVID-19.
At the precise time when the manufacturing industry are working to attract more female workers, they are being forced to leave the workforce to care for their children.
What can employers do to help their employees?
They must mitigate the challenges facing their working parents by first opening a conversation with employees about childcare assistance. Do parents need more flex time or more remote work options? Or, do they simply need cash assistance?
In a third report, the USCC Foundation found that 50 percent of parents view financial assistance for childcare or onsite childcare as one of the most important factors in their decision to return to work, but only five percent of employers are likely to provide either of these options. The foundation concluded, “Communication with employees is key to understanding how they view childcare assistance and which specific supports they need to return to work.”