As the economy struggles to get back on track, the labor participation rate remains feeble for almost everyone. Still, the losses affecting this group of women — who normally would be in the prime of their careers — stand out from the crowd and highlight the challenges facing middle-aged workers who, for whatever reason, find themselves out of a job.
The New York Times reports that “Since the start of the recession, the number of working women 45 to 54 has dropped more than 3.5 percent. There are now about one million fewer women of that age in the labor force than at their peak at the end of 2009. For younger women the rate of decline was about 2 percent — and many of those in their 20s dropped out to return to school or left the work force temporarily to focus on caring for young children.
“Men, too, have been pushed out of the labor market as jobs in the construction and manufacturing industries have been slow to return. But the rate of decline among adult men has largely tracked the curves of the economy and has been spread more evenly across ages. Mr. Shepherdson, who highlighted the drop in working women in a recent report for his firm, Pantheon Macroeconomics, said that even in a slow-growing economy “women’s participation should not have fallen at all, especially among the women in their prime earning years.”
“The fact that more elderly people are living longer may be behind many middle-aged women’s decision to stop working. Most employers do not offer flexible schedules for workers caring for elderly family members. And increasingly, women in their 40s and 50s are sandwiched between caring for aging parents and their own dependent children, including young adults still living at home.
“A Pew Research Center survey conducted in October 2013 reported that 27 percent of the women surveyed had quit their job to care for a child or family member. Sarita Gupta, co-director of Caring Across Generations, an advocacy group for home care workers and patients, said the difficulties can stack up. “Women are falling out of the work force to be primary caregivers to aging parents,” she said, “but as women go out of the work force it means they sacrifice their own financial security.” Continue reading “Women quitting in peak years”