A new survey by parenting benefits platform Cleo comes to a stark conclusion: Things have gotten much worse for working parents since April.
At that early stage of the coronavirus pandemic, only 6% of people who responded to the startup’s survey said they planned to leave the workforce because of the pressures of parenting amid the coronavirus crisis. But in a second iteration of that survey published Tuesday, a full 27% of respondents said they now planned to leave work.
Cleo, a four-year-old employee benefits platform that provides services like lactation consulting and mental-health support to parents of young children, in June surveyed 136 parents of children between the ages of 4 months and 5 years old across 11 of its corporate clients. The companies surveyed spanned the tech, finance, and food and beverage industries—and included not just well-paid white-collar workers, but also delivery drivers and bank tellers.
“I’m not surprised, but I’m still horrified,” Cleo CEO Sarahjane Sacchetti says of the findings.
Balancing never-ending childcare with the pressures of work through the coronavirus pandemic has turned out to be harder than parents expected. The surveys also found that the percentage of new parents who plan to return to work after parental leave has remained consistent over the past three months—but the share who actually go back on time has declined; 83% returned to work when they expected to in April, compared to only 72% now.
Childcare is in even shorter supply now than it was as the country shut down in April. Only about 35% of families reported they had some form of childcare last month, compared to 50% two months earlier.
One of the reason for these worsening numbers may be that help parents expected in the early days of the crisis has not materialized. In April, 53% of respondents said they planned to move closer to family or have family move closer to them during the pandemic; in the June survey, just 28% of respondents said they now have childcare assistance from family.
“Working parents—before COVID hit, we were optimistic, resilient, and creative,” says Sacchetti. “But parents have not been able to materialize those changes.”
And these realities have a significant impact on mental health, especially for women. Women are two-and-a-half times more likely than men, according to the June survey, to say mental wellness is a challenge right now.
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