March 31, 2023
Report: Women and communities of color have borne the brunt of essential work and layoffs during the pandemic. 

MINNEAPOLIS (Dec. 9, 2020) — Women workers in Minnesota face a dual vulnerability during COVID-19, with a higher risk of exposure to the virus at work and of being laid off — particularly for women of color, according to a recent report from the University of Minnesota.
New research by the Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs calls on policymakers to invest in racial and gender equity by strengthening the social safety net for all Minnesotans.
Among the report’s key findings:Asian women, Native American women, and Black women are disproportionately employed in high-risk essential health care, retail, and service jobs. Asian men and white men dominate lower-risk essential jobs. Pandemic-related layoffs have disproportionately affected women, Native Americans, and Blacks.
Differences in industry and occupation explain only a fraction of these job losses.Stimulus checks and unemployment insurance provided critical economic aid in the early months of the pandemic. But many who needed these supports, including undocumented workers and people experiencing homelessness, could not access them.Workers have had to improvise solutions to major structural issues during the pandemic, including inadequate personal protective equipment and a lack of safe, affordable child care. 
“While income is crucial, safety and child care are also major concerns for workers and their families, and these received less attention from both the state and federal governments,” said Professor Christina Ewig, the Center’s faculty director, who led the research team. “And because women are concentrated among essential workers and spend more time on child care at home, the lack of response in these areas has magnified gender inequalities during the pandemic.”
The report recommends swift action by policymakers to ensure that all essential workers have adequate PPE, to properly translate and disseminate information about the virus and emergency financial supports to all communities, and to make undocumented workers eligible for future relief programs. Longer term, the pandemic is an urgent call to build resilience by reforming state and federal policy priorities:
• Establish universal health coverage that decouples insurance from employment
• Implement a universal basic income to replace the current patchwork of economic and social supports
• Expand unemployment insurance to cover previously excluded workers
• Make COVID-19 paid sick and family leave provisions permanent
• Prioritize childcare and education planning in future emergency preparedness
Read the full report
Read a summary of key findings and recommendations
Formed in 1984, the Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy was the nation’s first comprehensive teaching, research, and outreach center devoted to women and public policy. We build on this legacy today as we work to provide students, researchers, policymakers, and the broader public with tools to better understand how public policy impacts gender equality in our local communities, throughout the United States, and around the world.

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