The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Women Leave the Workforce

Oct 25, 2021

Last month, after Labor Day, the enhanced federal unemployment benefits of $300 weekly stopped. And all during the time this benefit existed, many business owners and anti-worker politicians said that people were making too much money staying home and that is why they couldn’t get people to work.

But guess what? The benefit ended and workers didn’t come back. Today, there are about 226,000 fewer people employed in Michigan compared with February, 2020. And the state’s overall workforce is down 136,000 women compared to early 2020.

So let’s take a look at why many women are not going back into the workforce. Children weren’t in school for 18 months, and even now, schooling is haphazard, with COVID outbreaks, and teacher and staff shortages, so families don’t even know day to day whether or not their kids have in-person schooling.

COVID disproportionately affected seniors, and it ran rampant in nursing homes. So more women today, who carry the most responsibility for the care of the old and the young in this society, have to take care of their elders.

Many grandparents who used to take care of the grandkids, now can’t. If Grandma can no longer do it, Moms are going to stay home.

COVID exacted a heavy toll on kids and seniors, mental health-wise, because they were isolated, and unable to have social lives. So women have had to take on mental health care, as well.

When you factor in child care costs, a wardrobe for going into work, transportation, and food, given the 78 cents on the dollar Michigan women make, many can’t even afford to go to work. In many cases, their expenses are more than their pay!

Too many jobs that are primarily “women’s work” have dangerous working conditions, like in nursing homes, forcing women to put their lives on the line, while grossly underpaid for that work!

And just look at the exodus of women workers, working at places like Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Michigan, who were forced to work in-person throughout the pandemic, and found themselves unable to continue in their jobs, if they were to be able to take care of their families, and stay safe.

Undoubtedly, there are many more reasons.

So what would bring women workers back to work?

For starters, guaranteeing that the schools are safe, and with the full complement of teachers, bus drivers, nurses and mental health professionals.

Guaranteeing that nursing homes are safe and fully staffed, with well-paid workers, ranging from nurses to physical, recreational and occupational therapists.

Guaranteeing child care and family leave benefits for families.

Guaranteeing that there is more on-the-job flexibility for women workers that acknowledges the disproportionate responsibility women have for the care of their families.

But these guarantees are exactly what this capitalist system cannot provide because its Number #1 priority is profit first, and the care of human beings doesn’t even factor into its functioning.

In past social struggles in this country, whether the Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912, or the Sit-down Strikes of the 1930s, or the Civil Rights movement, women workers played central roles in fighting for the rights of all workers. It remains true that women workers will have to play a key role in the future fight that is sorely needed to overthrow this system and replace it with one where the care of children and elders will be its Number #1 priority.