Women Lost 528,300 Caregiving Jobs Since the Start of the Pandemic

By Katherine Gallagher Robbins

Caregiving is the essential backbone to our economy, but that backbone is breaking. New TIME’S UP analysis* shows that, since the beginning of the pandemic, the economy has lost 563,800 jobs across three caregiving industries: child care, nursing and residential care, and home health care. These losses have fallen disproportionately on women, with women losing 528,300 caregiving jobs between February 2020 and August 2021. This means that, while women workers filled 84.3% of caregiving jobs at the start of the pandemic, they have accounted for 93.7% of all caregiving job losses during the pandemic.

The statistics are alarming — though caregiving jobs comprised 3.9% of the total job market at the beginning of the pandemic, they have accounted for 10.9% of all losses during the pandemic.

This is even more lopsided for women — caregiving jobs accounted for 6.6% of all women’s jobs in February 2020 — but they were 18.6% of all the jobs women have lost over the course of the pandemic, which is nearly triple what you would anticipate if job losses were equally spread across industries. And recent trends are disturbing: though the economy overall has started to gain jobs, caregiving job losses have continued.

Each of these three caregiving industries has experienced losses over the course of the pandemic and, in each of them, the losses have fallen disproportionately on women. ​​During the pandemic, nursing and residential care facilities lost 388,100 jobs, and women lost 334,100 of these jobs (86.1%). In home health care and child care, women workers accounted for more than 100% of the job losses, meaning men actually gained jobs during the course of the pandemic while women lost them. In child care, 126,500 jobs were lost; women lost 126,700 jobs (100.2%). In home health care, 49,200 jobs overall were lost; women lost 67,500 jobs (137.2%).

While these data do not include race and ethnicity breakdowns, other research has clearly documented that failure to support caregiving has harmful consequences for equity. Women of color are especially likely to be paid caregivers and suffer a wage gap that stems from the double bind of racism and sexism.

TIME’S UP research shows that investing in care at the levels proposed in the Biden-Harris administration’s American Jobs and Families Plans would enable at least 3 million women currently constrained by caregiving responsibilities to join the labor market in the first year alone — an increase that would boost the nation’s GDP by $330 billion. The Build Back Better Act would provide essential supports for caregiving, both for the professional care workforce, as well as for parents and family caregivers who care for loved ones who are disabled or elderly.

Investing in caregiving will increase equity and support the economy, and the latest facts underscore the urgent need to robustly invest in the full range of caregiving policies, including child care, paid leave, and home- and community-based supports. Congress must act now to pass the Build Back Better Act. Caregivers — both paid and unpaid — need and deserve these policies to thrive.

*Methods note: This analysis employs seasonally adjusted data from the Current Employment Statistics survey. Gender-disaggregated data lag by one month so data presented here are through August 2021 to enable gender comparisons. However, data show that between August and September overall caregiving job losses continued to mount.

Get to Know Katherine Gallagher Robbins

Kate joins TIME’S UP in the role of Senior Director of Research, she brings more than a decade of experience in research and policy analysis focused on gender, the conditions of low-wage work, caregiving, and racial justice. Kate was most recently the Director of Child Care and Early Education at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), where she helped lead the effort to secure a historic $50 billion investment in child care relief funding. Prior to joining CLASP, Kate was the Senior Director of Poverty Policy at the Center for American Progress and the Director of Research and Policy Analysis at the National Women’s Law Center. Robbins holds a B.A. in Government from The College of William and Mary and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.