Workers are facing unprecedented caregiving responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely related to school and child care closures. Many workers lack options aside from unemployment insurance (UI) for balancing caregiving responsibilities with their jobs. A quarter of UI recipients—roughly 8 million workers—primarily spend their time caregiving, and caregiving is the primary barrier to reemployment among parents on UI who are not looking for a job. As the nation grapples with reopening, Congress can better support workers’ engagement in the labor force and their caregiving responsibilities.
Morning Consult surveyed 1,500 persons receiving unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was fielded on June 19, 2020 – July 6, 2020.
1. Most workers receiving unemployment insurance were furloughed or fired, but of those who quit their jobs, caregiving responsibilities were a primary reason.
- Most workers receiving UI benefits were either furloughed (35%) or laid off (37%). Only 6% of workers on UI report quitting their jobs during the pandemic.
- Of the workers who quit their jobs, caregiving needs related to school and child care closures were a leading reason why, behind fear of illness and job dissatisfaction.
- 52% of parents who quit did so due to child care provider or school closures
- 37% of caregivers who quit did so to care for a sick family member
- 20% of workers who quit did so due to other caregiving responsibilities
2. Workers on unemployment insurance are facing unprecedented caregiving responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Caregiving responsibilities have grown or stayed the same for 95% of unemployed workers during the pandemic, and 78% of parents on UI reported an increase in caregiving.
- Caregiving demands have grown at relatively similar levels across income levels, education levels, and ethnicities, though some disparities remain.
- Time spent caregiving rose for 39% of women compared to 32% of men
- Time spent caregiving rose for 47% of Hispanic and 42% of Black recipients, compared to 34% of white recipients
- While looking for work is the primary activity of most unemployed persons, 26% of all UI recipients (roughly 8 million workers) primarily spend their time caregiving, including 59% of parents and 29% of those not actively looking for work.
3. Many workers lack options aside from unemployment insurance for balancing caregiving responsibilities and workforce participation
- Nearly a half (44%) of UI recipients report that they are not actively looking for work or have declined an offer to return to work. Of these workers, caregiving is a major barrier to reentering the labor force.
- Of parents not looking to return to work, a majority (59%) cite caregiving responsibilities as the primary barrier to employment.
- Of parents not looking to return to work, caregiving specifically due to school closures is the top reason why (41%).
- Caregiving responsibilities due to school closures are particularly pronounced among minority parents: 55% of Hispanic and 44% of Black parents on UI are not planning to or did not accept an offer to return to work due to caregiving needs.
- Other leading barriers to work among UI recipients not looking for a job include concerns about personal health (36%), self-isolating (29%) and local stay-at-home orders (27%).
- 94% of workers currently on UI did not know or have the option of using paid leave from their employer during COVID-19, including those at firms with under 500 employees that were required to provide paid leave under the emergency leave provisions of the Families First Act.
- Workers previously employed by a company with 500+ employees are 12 percentage points more likely than those previously at a company with less than 500 employees to have claimed UI because they were laid off or furloughed.
- Nearly two out of three workers (63%) say they would be somewhat (29%) or very (34%) likely to return to work sooner if they knew they had access to paid family leave.
- Three out of four (75%) unemployed workers would be somewhat (30%) or very (45%) likely to return to work on a reduced schedule if they could still receive partial UI benefits to help compensate for reduced wages, or a work share type program.
This blog post has been revised from its original version. BPC originally reported that 23% of UI recipients are not looking for work. The blog post has been revised to reflect that 44% of UI recipients report that they are not actively looking for work or have declined an offer to return to work.