Celebrate Mother’s Day with a Pay Raise, Paid Time Off and a Side of Flowers
by Annette Case
Moms work hard. In addition to the everyday hard work caring for sick kids, overseeing homework, shuttling to activities, and dealing with household chores, moms play a large role in managing the overall health and safety of the family. Though nurturing their children is worthwhile for moms, and society at large, sure, a day with brunch and flowers is welcome.
Most women also engage in paid work. They are Supreme Court Justices, astronauts, teachers, health care workers, military personnel — someday, even president. Many moms are breadwinners for their households. Family economic security and their children’s well-being depend on their income as well as the care they provide. Children’s opportunities and freedom to innovate as they grow up are also impacted by their mom’s ability to invest in their future by doing things like buying a home and saving for college and other wealth to pass on.
Of all women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, single moms spend the most time working or looking for work. Many of them exhibit superhero-like powers: juggling multiple jobs and children, paying the bills, and running their households. This seems especially impressive when you consider that women working full time earn less than men (79%) for the same work and that the jobs which predominately employ women pay low wages. Black and Hispanic women earn even less, 65% and 54% respectively, compared to White men. The pay gap increases with increases in higher education.
A single mom with two kids working full time at the current federal minimum wage is paid about $15,000 in wages, a pre-tax income below the federal poverty line of $20,000. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator, that same family must earn more than twice that amount in a low cost of living area to actually make ends meet. Moreover, this income does not allow for savings, or planning for retirement and college. Too many women do not receive adequate pay for their hard work — a staggering 40% of single moms would would receive a pay raise with a federal minimum wage of $12 an hour.
The waitress who may serve your brunch tomorrow or the sales clerk who wraps the flowers you’ll give to your mom may only receive part time hours and no paid time off to care for her kids (or celebrate Mother’s Day). Her schedule might change from day to day, often without notice, so she can neither count on a specific income, nor plan for child care or time off to attend her child’s school performance. In addition to no paid time off, many of the jobs that employ women don’t provide other common benefits such as retirement contributions. Benefits such as these contribute to a woman’s ability to make ends meet today, help buffer against hard times, and are critical opportunity accelerators for the generations ahead.
The roots of wage and wealth disparities run deep and reflect policy choices we have made together. For example, in the 1930s and 1940s, acting together, our policy makers created policies that rebuilt our economy and helped many Americans get a good education, secure jobs that supported their families, and move into homes. Yet domestic workers, many of whom were Black women in the 1930s and immigrant women today, were excluded from labor protections against job loss and retirement benefits created by the legislation. Only in this century did direct care providers receive minimum wage protections. The cumulative impact of rules like this that conferred advantage to some has been generations of lost wealth and opportunity for others.
Women shouldn’t have to be superheroes to make ends meet and care for their families. So, instead of just giving them flowers, let’s really compensate moms for their hard work. Common sense suggests moms’ jobs (all jobs!) should pay more than poverty wages. Increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour with rules that ensure it keeps pace with changes in the cost of living would be a great start. More than that women should at least be paid the same for the same work, no matter their gender or race. Mandated paid family leave and minimum paid time off are two more policy decisions that help women work and care for their children without perilous tradeoffs and without creating deficits by taking time off without pay. Investing in ample, quality, affordable early learning for all children would allow moms to find care and peace of mind at work while boosting the well-being, school readiness and future opportunities for the generations ahead.
Common sense actions like these will help make sure our young people are born into communities where opportunities are readily available so that every child can reach their full potential. Working together we can build stronger families and thriving communities.
Annette Case is a Senior Consultant for the Insight Center for Community Economic Development’s Metrics Matter Initiative.