By Francesca Chambers

Women who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic could be waiting until 2023 to work again, experts warn, even if economic initiatives President Joe Biden has proposed become law.

It could take more than two years for women’s employment to return to pre-pandemic levels because the industries women worked in were hit the hardest, according to the National Women’s Law Center, an organization that publishes monthly reports on how the pandemic is affecting women’s employment. Most of the job losses were in the hospitality, education, health, government and retail industries, the organization says.

Initiatives in two proposals Biden has put forward, a jobs plan and a separate families plans that would greatly expand access to benefits such as child care and paid family leave, are projected by economists to help with employment down the line. But they say the measures would not do much to speed up the process of getting women who lost their jobs back into the workforce.

“They’re not really about getting the economy back to full employment sooner,” said Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi, who is supportive of the Biden proposals yet acknowledges they are aimed at addressing longer-term economic growth and income and wealth inequality.

Zandi said he expects both male and female employment to recover “by early 2023, about 2 years from now,” though he assessed, “Male employment will likely fully recover a few months before female employment given male-dominated industries got hit less hard during the pandemic.”

Women have left or lost at least 4.2 million jobs since the beginning of the pandemic. Roughly 2 million of those women are still unemployed, according to employment experts.

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