Women trying to support a family on their own are having a harder time doing so, according to a new report that details the plight of the working poor. As this nation enters Women’s History Month, single mothers are disproportionately struggling to make ends meet, and the document shows conditions are getting worse for them, not better.
Of the 7.1 million U.S. families led by women in 2012, 4.1 million were living in poverty, or 58 percent overall. Female-headed working families make up 22 percent of all working families, but are 39 percent of all low-income working families in this country. And there was a four percentage-point hike in the amount of female-headed households classified as poor between 2007 and 2012. In addition, 65 percent of children residing such households were low income.
The top occupation for low-income single mother-led families in 2012 was home health aide, according to the report. While it is a growing field, it is not one that provides wages and benefits that can support a household. Federal law has largely exempted the job from minimum wage and overtime rules. While changes in the law will reverse that in 2015, however, it is not enough.
“More needs to be done, however, to ensure that these jobs, with their high availability and relatively low barriers to entry, are good jobs with benefits, career growth and viable, family-supporting wages,” The Working Poor Families Project policy brief states.
The problems for women-led single parent households, however, go deeper than any one occupation. Many of them are struggling, and a big reason why is a lack of support from government on all levels. Instead of giving a hand up, benefits like food stamps and unemployment insurance are being cut back.
There is also the issue of paid sick leave. The U.S. is the only First World nation that doesn’t require it, and households with only one wage earner really suffer without it. While several states have moved forward to require it, Congress needs to step up and ensure those working hard to put food on the table have the right to call in sick when needed without risking their job.
Government shouldn’t be penalizing those trying to do the right thing. Hard-working Americans – female or male – deserve respect from employers and policymakers for toiling away each day to put food on the table. Instead, it is increasingly clear they are an afterthought as the rich and powerful rake it in.
Want to please the voters, elected officials? Reward workers!