Apr 18, 2020 - Health

Women make up a majority of essential U.S. coronavirus workers

Empress EMS paramedics transport a patient with COVID-19 symptoms to a hospital

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

One in three jobs held by women has been deemed as essential, putting women in the U.S. on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak.

The state of play: Nearly 52% of all essential workers are women, the N.Y. Times reports. That includes 77% of health care workers, 78% of social workers and more than 2/3 of grocery store and fast-food employees.

  • Nearly 5.8 million people have jobs in health care that pay less than $30,000 a year, half are nonwhite and 83% are women.
  • On average, 9 out of 10 nurses, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists and pharmacists are women.
  • 28% of all male workers have been deemed essential.

Why it matters: The work women take on has long been underpaid and undervalued.

  • Women are "an unseen labor force that keeps the country running and takes care of those most in need," and it's becoming more apparent during the pandemic, the Times writes.
  • More women are becoming surgeons or other physicians, but a large majority of female health care workers are still taking jobs on the lowest end of the wage scale with little reward, per the Times.

Between the lines: Women make-up 73% of the health care workers who have been infected with the coronavirus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Health care work expands beyond hospitals and doctors' offices, leaving many home health and personal care aides behind. They've yet to receive labor protections, even though it's one of the fastest growing job markets in the country, per the Times.

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