Chairman Clyburn’s Opening Statement at Hearing on “Underpaid, Overworked, and Underappreciated: How the Pandemic Economy Disproportionately Harmed Low-Wage Women Workers”
Washington, D.C. (May 17, 2022) – Below is Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman James E. Clyburn’s opening statement, as delivered, for today’s hearing with experts and an impacted worker on “Underpaid, Overworked, and Underappreciated: How the Pandemic Economy Disproportionately Harmed Low-Wage Women Workers.”
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Chairman James E. Clyburn
Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis
Hearing on “Underpaid, Overworked, and Underappreciated: How the Pandemic Economy Disproportionately Harmed Low-Wage Women Workers”
May 17, 2022
The coronavirus wreaked havoc on our entire economy and much of our workforce. The harm, while broadly shared, fell disproportionately on the shoulders of women workers.
Women bear a disproportionate share of the caregiving responsibilities in our country. Many more women than men are the exclusive childcare providers for their households, and in households where care responsibilities are shared, they are often shared unevenly.
As a result, when the pandemic disrupted normal life in 2020, many working mothers were left unable to balance their jobs with their increased responsibilities to take care of their children, ailing parents, and others for whom they had taken on this essential work. During the early months of the crisis, women all over the country were losing their jobs because of a lack of childcare and other care assistance.
Women working low-wage jobs were hurt particularly hard. Women in low-wage jobs are more likely to be the sole or primary breadwinner for their household. This means they often must balance the burden of making sure their household has enough food on the table with the challenge of taking care of children or elderly parents. For these women, there is rarely a rainy day fund to fall back on: every day’s wages are necessary to make sure they can pay their rent and put enough food on the table. Far too often, these workers face the difficult choice of either taking care of a sick child or going to work to try to earn enough to support their family.
These women also tend to have fewer guarantees of job security or steady income from week to week. Low-wage jobs tend to have higher turnover. These workers are more likely to get fired, forced out, or voluntarily leave because the stress of balancing a job with other obligations is simply too high. Even when low-wage workers are able to remain on the job, the precariousness of their employment takes a mental toll.
These jobs are also less likely to provide critical benefits like paid family and medical leave, and less scheduling security or flexibility, making it more difficult for workers to manage caregiving responsibilities.
The Select Subcommittee has conducted a survey of 12 of the nation’s largest private-sector companies that reportedly experienced significant workforce reductions during the crisis, to understand, among other things, who was laid off, who got promoted, and who may have been forced to leave the workforce by other burdens. Our analysis found that in 2020, women working in hourly positions experienced disproportionate harm compared to men working in hourly positions at the same place of work, when it came to firings, layoffs, voluntary quits, changes in wages, and promotions. This disproportionate harm exacerbated preexisting gender disparities, further straining the families who rely on those women’s wages to make ends meet.
Despite a record-setting 8.3 million jobs added to the workforce since President Biden took office, low-wage working women continue to face disproportionate challenges to participating in the workforce. As of February, the female labor force had declined by 1.1 million workers since the pandemic began. The economy will suffer lasting consequences if women continue to face obstacles to full employment participation, too often forcing them to choose between caring for a family member or going to work.
To build an equitable and thriving economy, we must take further action to address underlying disparities and eliminate barriers to workforce participation. We must ensure working women, especially low-wage women, can support themselves and their families through times of personal or economic upheaval while remaining in the workforce.
I would like to thank our witnesses for being with us today. I look forward to hearing more about the challenges facing low-wage working women and what can be done to enable them to contribute to our nation’s economy to the best of their ability.
I now recognize the Ranking Member for his opening statement.