Democrats Need to Increase Childcare and Paid Leave Policies

Democrats Need to Increase Childcare and Paid Leave Policies

Democrats Need to Increase Childcare and Paid Leave Policies

  • Paul Constant is a writer at Civic Ventures and the co-host of the podcast “Pitchfork Economics”.
  • He says the Inflation Reduction Act is a good start, but now Democrats must prioritize families.
  • Affordable childcare and paid leave can boost the economy and narrow the gender pay gap.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

The Biden administration is closing a summer of massive legislative achievement. From a dual weapons responsibility package to the Inflation Reduction Act and an effort to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to US shores, Biden and Congressional Democrats have managed to pass a thick package of laws that experts in January 2022 would have sworn were downright impossible. goods.

But in the months of secret negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin that eventually turned President Biden’s massive Big Back Better bill into the leaner Inflation Reduction Act, a number of key economic policies, including quality, affordable childcare and a federally paid family and sick leave were scrapped.

That popular policy needs to be moved to the top of the priority list for Democrats. After all, if they’ve learned anything from last month’s victories, it’s that doing popular things is popular.

Quality, affordable childcare can help close the gender pay gap

We saw in the early days of the pandemic that the US economy is collapsing if families don’t have access to quality, affordable childcare.

More than 2 million women – nearly half of whom are women of color – stopped working in 2020, when schools were closed and children had to stay at home. And while that is the most dramatic and obvious representation of how important childcare is to a functioning workforce, for decades millions of women have paid the economic cost of our country’s lack of basic support for families with children.

A recent report from the World Economic Forum showed that 80% of the gender pay gap is made up of the ‘maternity penalty’, where women’s pay begins to shrink compared to their male peers after having children.

Policies that introduce or subsidize quality, affordable childcare would help close the gender pay gap in two ways: first, their reliability would level the playing field between working mothers and men who are not stereotypically expected to sacrifice their jobs for the sake of parenting the same way women are. And second, the Build Back Better Act expanded access to preschool and reduced childcare costs, while also increasing the wages of childcare providers — 95% of whom were women.

Paid leave boosts the economy and improves outcomes for children

On the other hand, a federal paid family leave program would make it easier for parents to stay home with sick children. But the long-term effects of the policies can also change millions of lives: Studies have shown that paid family leave can reduce the number of child deaths per year, lower the risk of poverty for mothers and increase the average household income. It would also enable more women to participate fully in the economy and create jobs with their consumer spending.

And if lawmakers were serious about improving outcomes for all children, they would also reinvigorate the child tax credit, reducing child poverty by nearly 30%. This program, which sent monthly payments of $250 to $300 per child to each parent, immediately lifted nearly 3 million children out of poverty, making it one of the most efficient and successful anti-poverty programs in United States history.

To show the American people real progress, Democratic lawmakers were forced to compromise with their own trickle-down colleagues. But just because Schumer couldn’t get Manchin to agree on the importance of women’s economic empowerment and providing quality care to all children doesn’t mean Democrats should give up on these policies. By ensuring that families can afford to have children and that women can fully participate in the workforce without being penalized for motherhood, Democrats will invest in the future by building an economy that truly works for everyone.

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