Like millions of women across the country, I balance a family, a full-time career and a host of other responsibilities. Last week, the House Budget Committee held a hearing to ensure “women can thrive in a post-pandemic economy.” As a new mother in the pandemic economy, I believe it is vital that we ensure women can maximize our potential. However, current proposals suggested by House Democrats look more harmful than helpful.
According to the committee report, women lost 12.2 million jobs at the peak of the pandemic in 2020 and remain 1.4 million jobs short of pre-pandemic levels. If Congress is serious about helping women succeed in the workforce, they should embrace flexibility and choice and reject the heavy hand of government restrictions. Unfortunately, their legislative agenda shows that is not the case.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the benefits of choice and options. A recent poll suggests that as many as 90 percent of U.S. workers value workplace flexibility, whether it is remote work and hybrid options or more flexible hours. Having the options to work from home, work unconventional hours or have a non-traditional employment relationship, such as an independent contractor, can be a lifesaver. These options allow many women (and men) to care for their children and remain productive in the workforce.
However, current legislation passed by House Democrats is putting that at risk. HR 842, the PRO Act, would cookie-cutter the definition of employees and limit the ability for workers to have independent contractor agreements. Women who find contractor or freelance status more conducive to their individual and family needs would find their opportunities limited.
According to the Mercatus Center, women are key contributors to the gig economy and independent work opportunities. Since 2000, female participation has grown more significantly in this sector than among men. This is why attacks on flexible work and independent contracting are so harmful to women, especially those who face logistical challenges with traditional employment (such as new mothers and caregivers of elderly patients). In every case, these attacks prevent women from realizing their full potential and putting their skills and talents to their best use.
High-quality and affordable childcare is also a top concern for working families. The Build Back Better Act included several provisions that would limit choices, burdening day care centers with one-size-fits-all wage mandates and mountains of red tape. If passed, these provisions would force smaller and notably faith-based childcare providers out of business in favor of large for-profit childcare centers. In my area, daycare centers have long waiting lists due to post-pandemic challenges, and these proposals would only exacerbate the problem. Economists find that regulations and the accompanying subsidies targeted to help lower-income individuals will hurt them because “the imposition of regulations reduces the number of center-based child care establishments, especially in lower-income markets.”
Finally, women — and all Americans — need a healthy economy with good wages and low inflation. High taxes, burdensome red tape regulations and unsound fiscal policies driving up inflation are hurting everyone. We see it at the grocery store and the gas pumps and in our utility bills. Supply chain issues cause shortages, such as in diapers and now baby formula. Allowing small businesses to fill the void when shortages happen is crucial. More government spending, such as the trillions of dollars proposed by Build Back Better, will lead to more inflation, higher prices, and the need for higher taxes in the future. Federal lawmakers need to rein in spending and promote policies that lead to energy security and lower prices. That will help women thrive post-pandemic.
As our nation recovers from COVID-19 and sees a return to normalcy, it is important to support women and ensure we all have meaningful career choices and affordable childcare and can be financially secure against rising inflation. Congress’ current proposals would reduce the choices available to women and hinder our ability to use our talents in the labor force. We know best how to care for our family and professional lives — not the government. Americans should reject these heavy-handed measures in favor of promoting freedom and opportunity.
Erica Jedynak is a Senior Advisor at Americans for Prosperity.