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July 31 2017

Stay-At-Home Mothers: Majority of Them Work

by Charlotte Hays

We've always advocated for flexibility in the workplace as being especially beneficial to women workers.

An excellent article in City Journal seconds this and explains how "leveraging" the working capacity of stay-at-home mothers could contribute to economic prosperity.

According to Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, most stay-at-home mothers (SAHMs) already do a great deal of productive and income-producing work.

Many work in cottage ventures, but many also end up in doing low-paying jobs that don't make the most of their capacities. However, the outlook for SAHMs who want to work may be improving. More employers are thinking strategically and offering flexibility to make better use of SAHMs. Vanderkam provides a fascinating tour of some of the jobs now available.

As Vanderkam observes, this is a welcome development as long as policy makers don't stand in the way.  Flexible jobs can beneficial to companies because being willing to hire SAHMs broadens the pool of possible workers and because part-timers often forego some other benefits for that of staying at home. And that's a problem in the eyes of many policy makers:

Policymakers (and parts of the legal world) have also sought to regulate the emerging virtual, part-time, or on-demand labor force. Such efforts stem from the seemingly progressive idea that all jobs should be good jobs, defined as those offering a family-supporting wage, full-time regular hours, and benefits.

This is the impulse behind efforts to raise the minimum wage, with laws passed in California, New York, Seattle, and elsewhere pushing the pay floor to $15 an hour over the next few years. Uber has been fighting lawsuits around the country that contend that drivers should be employees, not independent contractors, with social-insurance contributions made on their behalf and with the requirement that drivers get paid the (rising) minimum wage.

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act required many employers to provide health insurance for those working just 30 hours a week, not the 40-hour minimum traditionally considered as full-time.

These well-meaning ideas might seem sensible in the context of traditional workers, but they make employers less likely to take a chance on people with spotty work histories, or those who want to work irregularly, or from home.

Requiring benefits for part-time jobs makes such jobs less attractive for employers—even as it becomes clearer that most mothers do want to work in some way, whether out of economic necessity, to bring in extra money, or to extend their identities beyond caregiving. Many just don’t want to work in the way that men traditionally have done—40 hours a week, at regular times, with no long voluntary interruptions.

It should be noted that SAHMs have been vulnerable to scams (Vanderkam recounts the story of one mother who signed up to do surveys that brought in only ten dollars for hours of work), but placing too many restrictions on hiring people who want to work at home will only make it easier for scam operations. Such "jobs" will become more inviting as legitimate jobs are ruled out by policies that make it difficult for legitimate companies to hire stay-at-home mothers.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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