A new National Survey by IWPR finds in first 100 days and beyond, affordable, high-quality healthcare, getting the economic recession under control, and job creation are top priorities for women for the new Administration and Congress. Women have been most affected by the COVID-incited economic downturn, with more than 4.3 million jobs lost and an additional 2.35 million leaving the workforce since February 2020 due to caretaking demands or inability to find work. Nearly a year since the COVID-19 pandemic came into full swing, IWPR’s survey, “Women’s Priorities and Economic Impact Survey”, reinforces what women have been saying all along – they need help.
In February 2021, IWPR surveyed 1,452 women about their current economic concerns and their opinions on policy priorities that would support them as workers and family providers. Since the start of the pandemic, 40 percent of women said that they stopped working or reduced their hours due to caretaking demands. Nearly one half of women are either “very worried” (23.7 percent) or “somewhat worried” (24.0 percent) about their total income being enough to pay all of their bills. The top policy priorities for the Biden Administration and Congress largely address these fears.
Affordable and high-quality healthcare reigns at the top priority for women with nearly half of women ranking this issue as their top priority for the Biden Administration. Of the women surveyed, 46.2 percent report being worried about maintaining health insurance coverage for their families. This concern is even higher for Latinas (66.4 percent), who may lack access for obtaining insurance through existing public programs including CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
“While healthcare was the top issue; women’s economic concerns are unwavering,” said Dr. C. Nicole Mason, President and CEO of IWPR. “Women have been hit hardest by this economic downturn, they need help paying the bills.” 40.5 percent of women surveyed said that rebuilding the economy was among their top priorities.
Women also prioritize stemming unemployment (35.8 percent) triggered by stay-at-home orders and efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and taxes (28.4 percent). Creating new, high quality jobs and initiatives like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Childcare Tax Credit are significant considerations for women.
Raising the minimum wage is a key issue for Black and Latina women, where both groups are overrepresented among women workers in in lower-wage job occupations. Black (39.1 percent) and Latina women (26.9 percent) would like to see an increase in the federal minimum wage.
Black women are seeking policies concentrating on improving Racial Justice or Inequality (49.1 percent and their most mentioned priority) and Income Inequality (30.4 percent of Black women included it in their top priority). Among white women, only about a quarter believe racial justice or inequality to be a priority while 1 in 5 Latina women want it to be a priority.
Lack of policies for caregivers and sick employees exacerbate a broken health care infrastructure and historic job losses for women. The United States of America remains the only high-income country that does not guarantee paid sick days or paid family and medical leave for workers to use for their own health or to care for their families. One in four (25.2 percent) women report that they needed to take time off but did not, the number jumping to about half (49.6 percent) when only considering Latinas who were unable to take off work when they needed to during the pandemic. Across race and ethnicity, 69 percent of women surveyed support paid sick and time away from work to have a child, recover from serious health conditions, or to take care of a family member.
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic recession had a disproportionate impact on women, especially Black and Latina women, working in service, leisure and hospitality, education, and healthcare. Women expressed the need for economic supports and assistance that will create high-quality jobs, strengthen social and public infrastructures, value care, raise wages and improve labor standards, and address historic and persistent racial and gender inequities.
“This pandemic is hurting women,” said Dr. Mason, “we should listen to them and act fast to provide solutions.”