Biden says nearly 1.2 million women haven't returned to work because there's no affordable childcare

Biden says nearly 1.2 million women haven't returned to work because there's no affordable childcare
President Joe Biden speaks during a visit to the Capitol Child Development Center, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, in Hartford, Conn.AP Photo/Evan Vucci
  • President Joe Biden said that nearly 1.2 million women aren't working because they can't afford childcare.
  • Lack of affordable childcare kept many parents out of the workforce during the pandemic.

For nearly a year, businesses have been complaining that they can't find workers as labor shortages abound, and the labor market gets tighter and tighter.

In a Wednesday speech at the North America's Building Trades Unions Legislative Conference, President Joe Biden discussed where some of those workers might be.

"There are nearly 1.2 million extremely qualified women who haven't returned to the workforce," Biden said. "There's a simple reason: There's no affordable childcare for them."

In February 2022, there were about 1.2 million fewer women in the labor force than before the pandemic in February 2020, according to Federal Reserve Economic Data. As of March 2022, the labor force level for women was about 864,000 lower than February 2020. The National Women's Law Center calculates that women's jobs are down by a net 1.1 million since February 2020.

Childcare — or lack thereof — has continually been cited as one reason that labor shortages persist. Some parents, especially women, have dropped out of the labor force altogether as the pandemic made childcare uncertain.


Childcare deserts, or areas where children outnumber licensed care slots by at least three to one, are prevalent. So are low wages for childcare workers, leading to more labor shortages in the childcare industry — and driving up the prices and availability of childcare.

It's not a new problem. Biden said that even he struggled with the cost of childcare for his two sons. As a senator, Biden famously commuted home to his kids in Delaware daily on his beloved Amtrak.

"Everybody thinks I commuted every day because I was this good father wanting to go home. That's true," Biden said in his Wednesday remarks. "But I couldn't afford daycare."

That was on what he called a "good salary" for the time. According to historical salary records, senators were paid $42,500 annually when Biden was elected to the Senate in 1972. Fortune finds that salary would have been worth about $256,000 in 2020 dollars.

"I couldn't afford childcare," Biden said. "And these women can't afford it either."


As part of the now-stalled Build Back Better Act, the Biden administration wanted to pour billions into lowering the cost of childcare and making it more available. Part of that including capping how much parents pay for childcare, ensuring that families making below 250% of their state's median income would pay a maximum of 7% of their income towards childcare.

A report from the Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank, found that parents could earn $48 million more if Congress enacted the proposed universal pre-K and affordable childcare measure — and three million more parents could move into the labor force or work more hours.

However, the Build Back Better Act is currently "dead," according to key centrist Democrat Joe Manchin. Manchin has signaled that he would be open to universal pre-K, but for now there's no movement on legislation.