The Impact Of Covid On Women Workers

By Kathy Morris - Oct. 13, 2021

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Key Findings

  • 41% of women workers experienced some type of job interruption since the start of 2020.

  • 14% of older women workers lost a job, while 13% reduced hours, 9% were furloughed, 7% experienced a temporary layoff, and 4% had reduced salary/hourly wage.

  • More African American and Hispanic women lost jobs than did White or Asian women.

  • Women workers face long-term unemployment: Nearly 70 percent of women who were still unemployed were out of work for six months or more.

  • Interruptions in work lead to financial uncertainty.

  • One quarter of midcareer and older workers have seen their financial situation worsen over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Even among those who are employed, concerns for the future and underemployment exist.

  • About 1 in 5 (21%) of those who are working are underemployed, meaning they work fewer hours than they would like.

  • Many more African American, Hispanic, and Asian women are underemployed than White women.

  • Many women are concerned about involuntary job interruptions in the next year. These concerns are magnified for multicultural women.

  • Nearly 3 in 10 midcareer and older women in the workforce report having taken care of a child or grandchild who was home during Covid-19 for remote schooling.

  • This impacted work, including most commonly: working only certain shifts/hours (24%) and inability to work full time (20%).

  • More than 2 in 5 women were either caring for an adult family member or friend OR a child/grandchild who was out of school.

  • Over half of women have looked for a job since turning 40. Of those, nearly one third (31%) cite age discrimination as an impediment to finding a job, the most common type of discrimination by far.

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Loss of job-based income during Covid-19

41% of women workers aged 40 to 65 experienced some type of job interruption since the start of 2020. The 41% breakdown of job-based income loss breaks down to through job loss (14%), reduced hours
(13%), job furlough (9%), temporary layoff (7%), or reduced salary/hourly wage (4%).

Overall, unemployment for women reached its peak in April 2020 at 16.1% for all women and 15.4% for women over 55, according to the BLS. Women were hit harder by the pandemic career wise than men due to jobs hit harder by shutdowns, childcare needs, and overall weaker finances to begin with.

Job loss for women ages 40-65 is higher among certain ethnicities

Unfortunately, as with past economic downturns, women of color faced higher rates of job loss.

Hispanic/latina women were hit hardest, with a job loss of 23%– 7% higher than the average for women as a whole. 20% of African American workers suffered a job loss as a result of the pandemic.

Comparatively, only 13% of white women faced job loss. Any attempt to address the economic harms of the pandemic will need to address the inequity of harm, both to women as a whole and in particular to women of color.

The majority of unemployed are long-term unemployed

While unemployment has dropped significantly since the beginning of the pandemic, a large percentage of unemployed women have been out of work for six months or more. Of the 9% of women workers over 40 still unemployed at the time of this study, 69% have been out of work for over six months.

Sadly, once six months has passed, workers find it more difficult to find their next trouble. More troubling, when they do land a job, they will typically be in a lower level or lower paying position. Not only does this have negative implications in the short-term, it can also limit future earning potential, future retirement, and have other undesirable outcomes.

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Job loss leads to potential long-term financial consequences

Understandably, loss of income takes a toll on finances. The 41% of older women who experienced loss of job income were forced to make hard financial choices. While some women had savings or family support to get by on, many were not as fortunate.

Of the women who lost a job, nearly one-quarter (23%) increased their credit card debt, 20% borrowed from family, 15% borrowed from friends, 15% started working/earning money independently, and 11% took money from a retirement savings account.

Methodology

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. AARP conducted an online probability survey via NORC Amerispeak panel, targeting women age 40-65 in the workforce or recently out of the workforce. The study was conducted June 3-24th, 2021.

The survey took approximately 5 minutes and sought to better understand how Covid impacted the careers of women 40-65. The questions focused on career experiences since 2020.

Zippia used this survey data to create the above article and visualizations to highlight the main survey findings.

Implications

While workers of all ages and gender have been impacted by the Covid pandemic, women workers faced higher rates of job loss and unique challenges created by childcare needs which disproportionately impact women.

However, some groups of women have experienced more negative outcomes than others. Women of color, in particular Hispanic and African American women, had the highest rates of job loss. Similarly, while older women were slightly less likely than younger women to loss their jobs, they do face additional obstacles when job hunting.

Nearly one third of older women workers cite age discrimination as an impediment to finding a job. Perhaps age discrimination and other challenges contribute to the 69% of older, still unemployed women workers who are now long-term unemployed.

The long term unemployed are often forced to make financial choices such as loans or cashing out retirement accounts that have long-reaching and negative implications for financial health.

Ultimately, true economic recovery will need to address these issues and reach those who have been disproportionately harmed- women, and in particular older women and women of color.

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Author

Kathy Morris

Kathy is the head of content at Zippia with a knack for engaging audiences. Prior to joining Zippia, Kathy worked at Gateway Blend growing audiences across diverse brands. She graduated from Troy University with a degree in Social Science Education.

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