Neal Opening Statement at Hearing on the Burnout Epidemic and What Working Women Need for a Stronger Economy
(As prepared for delivery)
In just a few minutes, we will hear the powerful stories of women who are doing their best to exist in our economy. I’m going to be brief because I want to let them do the talking.
Women are asked to wear many hats each and every day. For years, they have been telling us that the idea that you can simply “balance” being an employee, a caregiver, a breadwinner, and a mom, is a myth. Wearing all those hats forces tradeoffs– less money, more stress, loss of advancement at work, things that don’t get done. Women are working hard, but our economy still doesn’t work for them.
The pandemic didn’t create this problem, but it made it worse. In the last two years, millions of women have been driven from the workforce for reasons out of their control. A million women have still not returned, despite millions of job openings. It’s easy to see why.
One in five U.S. workers, most of them women, are caregiving for a loved one while working. One in ten are in the so-called “sandwich generation,” and are caring for both a child and an adult. Over two-thirds of working women are experiencing burnout. The burnout gap between men and women has doubled in the last year alone.
The five women on our panel today are experts on their own lives and the challenges they face. Each story is unique, but you will hear themes that mirror the challenges facing millions of American women.
Dreams have been sacrificed, goals put on hold, and I know plenty of sleep has been lost.
This isn’t just an issue of trying harder, and it affects all of us. We cannot expect our economy to perform to its fullest potential when a large swath of the workforce can’t even get through the door. Women’s workforce participation rates and earnings trail those of men, which the National Partnership for Women and Families estimates costs our economy $650 billion a year.
Labor force participation among women in the United States is consistently behind our peer countries that provide basic supports for caregiving. American women and families pay for this in lost income and additional hardship, and our economy pays for it when talented workers are forced to sit out.
In many cases, this burnout epidemic is uniquely American. The United States is one of only two OECD countries that does not provide paid leave to new parents. It is one of only a handful that does not provide paid leave to workers dealing with their own serious medical conditions or those of loved ones.
Ask any parent about finding child care, and you’ll hear how scarce it is. When they do find it, it can be prohibitively expensive.
Last year, we held a very similar hearing, where we heard loud and clear about the policy solutions that would better support women and unlock their full potential. Since then, this Committee led with guaranteed child care and universal paid family and medical leave legislation. Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues didn’t join us in recognizing the urgency of creating these basic workplace supports. We won’t give up, though. Too much is at stake.
With that, I will recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Brady, for an opening statement.