THE CITY: Women With Children Having Harder Time Re-entering NYC Workforce

THE CITY: Women With Children Having Harder Time Re-entering NYC Workforce | November 2021: The pandemic recession recovery isn’t reaching New York City mothers who face steep challenges in breaking back into the workforce — underscoring a growing child care crisis, a new report from a children’s advocacy group found.

The report by the nonprofit Citizens’ Committee for Children, shared with The Fuller Project and THE CITY, found that 41% of 25- to 54-year-old women living with children in the New York metropolitan area were not working between April and July.

That 41% was an improvement over the 50% of women who had reported being out of work at the peak of the pandemic economic shutdowns a year earlier. But male parents’ employment made a much bigger recovery, the report found, with the share of dads out of the workforce dropping from 45% to 24%.

“Women and women of color are really being very hard hit on many levels, like income loss, job loss and being pulled out of the workforce due to child care responsibilities,” said Jennifer March, the group’s executive director. “It seems like their recovery is slow right now.”

The Census numbers showed women who reported being Hispanic/Latino as the likeliest to report not working, at 55%. Among Black non-Hispanic women, 46% reported not working, while that figure was 39% Among Asian non-Hispanic women and 36% among white non-Hispanic women.


‘People Want to Work’

While news articles abound on the challenges some employers have had in finding workers, child care experts and community organizers in New York City say told THE CITY and The Fuller Project there is more to the story — especially for low-income mothers.

“People do want to go to work,” said Mirtha Santana, chief program officer at RiseBoro, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that offers social services. “But when it becomes [a decision between] either working or having a better child care situation for your child, especially when that job is minimum wage, people make their choices.”

The pandemic temporarily shut down child care centers and job-placement sites where parents could get help signing up for child care, while making other support resources more difficult to access.

Meanwhile, remote and hybrid school were still in place for most public school students during the span of the Census survey, requiring intensive family support for students learning at home.

“I’m surprised it’s not a larger number, to be honest with you,” said Dawn Mastoridis, Child Care Director at Queens Community House, a multi-service settlement house and community resource center, referring to the percentage of New York mothers who were not working at the end of the last school year.

“Women have always historically been the primary caregivers who had to stay at home with children, and the process to get child care coverage is not an easy one,” said Mastoridis, who has helped shepherd parents through applying for subsidized child care.

In addition to dealing with long wait times for resources like child care vouchers, the amount of paperwork required to apply for that help can be a huge barrier for parents, advocates say.

This is especially true for parents with non-traditional jobs offering little or no documentation of employment, or for parents dealing with language barriers, said Mastoridis.

“It’s a challenge,” she added. “You have to have a lot of stamina and perseverance, and I could see why parents might give up on the process.”


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