By Francesca Chambers

So many women have dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic that the Biden administration has said it is an emergency and warned of a setback so severe that it could stand in the way of a full economic recovery.

The White House says it is concerned that women are taking themselves out of the running for promotions, off the front lines of health care work and away from education opportunities that lead to higher-paying jobs because their family responsibilities are piling up at home.

“In one year, the pandemic has put decades of the progress we’ve collectively made for women workers at risk,” Vice President Kamala Harris told women’s advocacy groups and female lawmakers recently. “And the longer we wait to act, the harder it will be to bring these millions of women back into the workforce.”

Women workers are in crisis, experts agree. Layoffs in female-dominated industries and widespread school and day care closures have had a crippling effect on economic opportunity and advancement for women.

More than 2.3 million women have left the workforce since the start of the pandemic compared with 1.8 million men, according to the National Women’s Law Center, which says the number of women who have jobs or are looking for work is at its lowest level since 1988.

“I think we all believe this is a national emergency. Women leaving the workforce in these numbers — it’s a national emergency and it demands a national solution,” Harris said.

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