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The COVID she-cession: not a new normal but the same old story … all work and no wages for women.

by Fiona Joy Green and Jaqueline McLeod Rogers

To make quality jobs available to women who are mothers responsible for the care of school age children, it’s imperative for employers to develop flexible work programs and patterns. There has been a lot written about companies developing hybrid work schedules, but many of these follow regulatory patterns, so that you might be expected to show up every Tuesday and Thursday. That’s not very helpful if you have a 7-year-old sniffling, without covid test results, and in quarantine isolation for a 7 to 14 day period.

The need for flexibility for working moms is problem #1. Yet there is a second problem, equally pressing. The statistics reveal that women 55+ who lost or left careers are not returning to the workforce. Many articles tend to provide this statistic as an aside– as if the employment concerns of this group are of less importance.

We’d like to point out that the pandemic has found unpaid work for many of these women. As young grandmothers, many are helping their children and grandchildren by offering days of child care availability and labour. These women are also members of the “sandwich generation”.

Many have senior age parents who they care for, alongside their own family members. The pandemic has made this task harder in many cases. While during the first wave, many were separated from aging and ailing parents and had to manage stress levels to keep spirits up, increasingly adult children are now designated as direct caregivers of their aging parents. They have days and hours dedicated to providing care and service.

As Armine Yalnizyan, a Toronto-based economist and the Atkinson Foundation’s Fellow on the Future of Workers, noted in a recent CBC article, statistics only tell part of the story. We want to hear that women are back in the workforce, that the new normal of returning to work with flexility has come into play. However, what we maybe overlooking is not only that women are returning to jobs that are not suited to their skillset and training, but also that those that do not return are engaged in unpaid labour. Instead of the new normal, it’s back to the same OLD story.

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