It seems that the struggle won't end for working mothers. Reopening after lockdown may add to women's load and force further sacrifices.

Despite the miserable choices facing many working mothers, several economists retain hopes that increased pressure on families could - over the long term - force structural and cultural changes that could benefit women :

A better child care system; more flexible work arrangements; even a deeper appreciation of the  sometimes overwhelming demands of managing a household with children by partners stranded at home for the first time.

As the pandemic upends work and home life, women have carried an outsized share of the burden, more likely to lose a job and more likely to shoulder the load of closed schools and day care.

For many working mothers, the gradual reopening won't solve their problems, but compound them -forcing them out of the labor force or into part-time jobs while increasing their responsibilities at home.

The impact could last a lifetime, reducing their earning potential and work opportunities.

''We could have an entire generation of women who are hurt,'' Betsey Stevenson, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, said of pregnant women and working mothers whose children are too young to manage on their own.

''They may spend a significant amount of time out of the work force, or their careers could just peter out peter out in terms of promotions.''

Women who drop out of the work force to take care of children often have trouble getting back in, and the longer they stay out, the harder it is.

The economic crisis magnifies the downsides. Wage losses are much more severe and enduring when they occur in recessions, and workers who lose jobs now are likely to have less secure employment in the future.

''Even the limited gains made in the past decades are at a risk of being rolled back,'' a recent report from the United Nations on the impact of the coronavirus on women warned.

The setback comes at a striking moment. In February, right before the outbreak began to spread in the  United States, working women passed a rare milestone - making up more than half of the nation's civilian nonfarm labor force.

Still, they do a disproportionate share of the work at home. Among married couples who work full time, women provide close to 70 percent of child care during standard working hours, according to a recent economic research.

That burden has been supersized as schools and other activities have shut down  and help from cleaning services and babysitters have been curtailed.

'The pandemic has exposed some weaknesses in American society that were always there,'' said Ms. Stevenson, a former chief economist at the U.S. Labor Department, ''and one of them is the incomplete transition of women into truly equal roles in the labor market.''

So reopening after lockdown may add to women's load and force further sacrifices.

The honor and serving of the latest global operational research on working mothers', continues. The World Students Society thanks authors Patricia Cohen and Tiffany HSU.


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