Another Equal Pay Day has arrived, and this year is no different–women have come in the fight for equal pay and we’re looking towards an even more equitable future. This year, though, many may say that now is not the time to be harping about equal pay; after all, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic that is touching everyone in some way. So let’s talk about healthcare workers on the front lines, or how everyone is staying at home and trying to work, or school, or care for their children.
But equal pay? Not a priority!
These concerns are understandable, but the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is that equal pay is more important now than ever. Concerns about the systemic and structural issues with many of our institutions–like access to healthcare, education, and paid leave–are interwoven with the issue of equal (or more appropriately, unequal) pay. Indeed, this pandemic has, if anything, made the need for identifying the connectedness of social issues and movements more critical.
Women make up half the workforce (50.04%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), and in 2015, more than 64% of mothers were either primary or co-breadwinners. We all know the general statistic: women overall earn 81.6 cents for every dollar earned by men (women working full time and year round). Ultimately, women are losing nearly $900 billion annually because of the gender wage, pay, and income gaps (not to mention the wealth gap).
Even when there is not a global pandemic happening, many women are unable to take paid leave of any kind. Only 13% of workers in the private sector have paid family leave and 41% of private sector workers have medical or short-term disability leave. One in four mothers, disproportionately mothers of color and low-income mothers, must return to work less than 10 days after giving birth, which is directly connected to poor infant and maternal health rates among these populations. Up to 10 additional weeks of paid leave is projected to bring down the infant mortality rate by 10%.
Add in COVID-19 and thousands of people asked to stay in their homes, and those female workers in low-wage and hourly jobs are challenged with the new task of caring for children who must stay home from school. And employees who have been laid off and apply for unemployment are subject to benefits tied to their earnings; when you make less for being a woman, you will subsequently receive less in unemployment benefits. Throw in the concerns about healthcare access and expensive testing? COVID-19 has made it extremely clear that we need equal pay now.
So while you’re staying at home and keeping safe during this unprecedented time, talk with your friends and family (and let your elected officials know before voting on the next stimulus package) about how Equal Pay Day is a priority and more important than ever.