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Davis Journal

Lack of child care is driving women out of the workforce

May 13, 2021 11:49AM ● By Becky Ginos

A teacher gathers riding toys at the Tim & Brenda Huval Child Care Center at the south campus of Salt Lake Community College. The college provides onsite child care for parents who are attending school. Courtesy photo 

BOUNTIFUL—Finding good child care not only impacts the family – but society as a whole. With more parents in the workforce, it also affects the economy. 

“Many people have viewed child care as a private matter that you should just deal with,” said Bountiful resident Susan Madsen, Director, Utah Women & Leadership Project Jon M. Huntsman School of Business Utah State University. “To help the economy it needs to be a public issue. It’s starting to emerge how it impacts families and businesses too. It will hurt the state long-term if the state doesn’t work on public policy.”

Women generally deal with child care, she said. “If the kids get sick, etc. she has to leave work to manage it. It can also impact her mental health because she’s worried about child care in general, that causes stress. It’s linked directly to productivity in the workplace.”

Child care impacts almost every aspect of a woman’s life, Madsen said. “During the pandemic all aspects crossed over. For women, especially in healthcare, they still had to go out to work. Many left the workforce because they didn’t have child care.”

Some tech companies were able to switch to working remotely, she said. “Women had to keep the paycheck coming but had to manage work with no child care. If your husband is in the middle of a meeting and a child comes crawling in and you’re working too that can cause stress.”

Homeschooling has taken a major toll for the state of Utah, said Madsen. “We’re significantly above the nation in how many children we have. Even before the pandemic Utah was struggling.”

There’s actually a shortage of high quality licensed child care providers, she said. “Child care workers are living in poverty yet we have a high need. There has to be an intervention with subsidies and legislation for tax incentives to really pick up that middle.”

There also needs to be child care assistance for mixed status families, Madsen said. “Parents who are not legal citizens but the kids are. The parents don’t get any help with child care. There’s been kind of a hole. Most are struggling in low paying jobs.”

It’s not just support, high quality child care affects a child’s life, she said. “It’s different than babysitting. They teach them. Without early childhood learning they start out way behind and it makes it hard for them to catch up, especially if English is the parents’ second language.”

There should be tax incentives for people and businesses to provide high quality child care, said Madsen. “Starting them in a business location makes it possible for the mom to scoot over and check on her child at lunch. But a business doesn’t have to host it. They can provide flexible hours, etc. for women. There are a lot of other resources. You just need to let your employees know you care.”

The pandemic has opened the eyes of many, she said. “Women are absolutely leaving the workforce. How do we get them back? When you lose a good employee it is not good for the economy. I think the Utah Legislature is starting to be open to this. They need to do something. We need to come up with a better solution for women.”