Women, especially Black women, are losing the majority of jobs in the coronavirus downturn. This is unprecedented.

Why Women?

The slowdown in 2008 was a “production recession,” explained C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. People stopped making and building things as loans got harder to obtain. Crudely speaking, a lot of workers who made stuff ― typically men ― lost their jobs.

This time, the slowdown began in the service sector. With everyone stuck at home, Americans are not paying for other people to do things for them. Hairdressers, restaurant workers, hotel housekeepers and retail clerks have all been thrown out of work. And women hold the majority of these jobs.

Another difference between the mancession and now: The manufacturing and construction jobs lost back then were fairly well-paying. Some were even unionized. That meant those men may have had some financial cushion ― either savings or benefits ― to fall back on.

The women losing their jobs now were underpaid. Remember the gender pay gap? Women comprise two-thirds of the lowest-paid workers in the U.S. These service jobs have terrible benefits: less paid sick leave, no health insurance, etc.

“That just really creates a very precarious situation,” Mason said.

One particularly vulnerable group right now is domestic workers ― the nannies, housekeepers and other care providers who work in other people’s homes. About 90% of these workers are women, and they already labor for low wages, mostly without benefits.

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