More women are participating in the U.S workforce and the reason seems clear–a stronger economy.
A Wall Street Journal news story reports:
Thanks to a strong economy, that long-running decline [of women in the workforce] shows signs of reversing. Labor-force participation among prime-age U.S. women aged 25 to 54 has risen to 75.2% from 73.3% three years ago, as their unemployment rate dropped to the lowest level since the 1950s.
A plenitude of jobs and a gradual rise in wages is drawing women back into the labor force, including those at the low end of the skill spectrum. For female high-school dropouts aged 25 and over, participation has risen to 33.8% from 32.1% three years ago, even as participation for college grads stagnated.
This is reversing a two-decades long decline of the percentage of women in the U.S. participating in the workforce. The Wall Street Journal notes that the decline was "puzzling" to demographers because female participation was increasing in other parts of the developed world.
A good economy helps people get into the workforce by providing good jobs.
Unfortunately, the reporter, while appreciating the part a robust economy plays, seems to think that what gets people into the workforce is government programs, such as those in developed European countries. The story devolves into special pleading for more government programs.
The story approvingly notes, for example, that women's participation in the workforce is promoted in Europe and Japan by "government-funded parental-leave policies and child-care programs, approaches the U.S. didn’t take."
It also correctly notes the high cost of child care in the U.S.:
While leave and child-care policies in the U.S. are limited, private child-care is expensive. The consumer-price index rose 87% since early 1991, according to the Labor Department. During the same period, the index for child care and nursery school costs increased 196%.
What the story doesn't comment on is that a lot of the exorbitant cost of childcare comes from unnecessary government regulations. We want kids to be safe but burdensome regulations that don't contribute to safety often add up to a hefty price tag for child care.
IWF has addressed the issue of cost of day care and regulations and provided common sense ways to make it more affordable.
As for paid leave, of course new parents want to be with their children. It is in society's interest for parents to be able to take time off. But IWF proposes a way to achieve this that doesn't require an expansion of government and the sorts of massively subsidized paid leave programs available in Europe.
And, while we're at it, let's celebrate the robust economy that has given women more choices.