The changing face of Childcare

How will COVID-19 impact the long-term labor market, job prospects, and expectations for nannies?


A Nanniest Original Article.



The global COVID-19 pandemic isn't just happening now, it's also happening in the future.


COVID has transformed the ways we go about our daily lives, but it's also sending ripple effects into how we will go about our daily lives in the long term. The pandemic is actively re-shaping the way human beings react to catastrophe, adjusting societal norms and customs, normalizing practices, and changing the possibilities that could have been.


We're seeing this ripple effect splash onto the way people work across industries. There have been mass layoffs and re-hirings as businesses adjusted their staffing model to meet new levels of demand. Many people have transitioned to full-time work from their homes on a more-than-temporary basis.


The childcare industry - and nannies in particular - have seen expectations for their roles change drastically.


As some parents shifted their place of work to the home, some nannies were laid off. Other nannies saw a reduction in their hours and a similar reduction in their pay.


Activities that were once common and expected were no longer options due to state-mandated closures, meaning nannies were additionally burdened with creating new ways of interacting with, educating, and entertaining their charges (often "quietly" in limited real estate while parents worked in available spaces: kitchen tables, spare rooms, home offices, etc. - adding further pressure).


As children's classroom sessions were moved to digital-based platforms, nannies also had the new challenge of managing learning schedules and keeping young students on track.


And throughout it all, nannies have had to grapple with balancing their own disease exposure risk tolerances and vaccination statuses with the expectations and tolerances of their employers.


To put it bluntly: it's been a lot. And everyone's wondering: what's here to stay from this period as we move to a "new normal"?


 

In May of 2020,

the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that 1.1 million childcare workers (which includes nannies) were employed during 2019.


From that base, BLS forecast that the job growth outlook for childcare workers was "slower than average" - at only 2% growth over a ten year period to 2029, adding approximately 20,000 jobs. For context, BLS estimates all occupations will grow by 4% during that period.


While this is a good baseline, it's probably worth taking with a rock-sized grain of salt: this estimate was pre-COVID and BLS hasn't yet updated their forecast. And even with a formal governmental agency estimate, it's still just that: an estimate.


So how might the next few years shake out, given all we've experienced in the market for childcare? We can make the case for a few different scenarios.



Scenario 1: Growth in the nanny market


We could point out the following reasons for why a "growth" scenario would make sense and why there may be more nannies in the future than there are now:

  1. Health reasons: health-conscious parents with the means to do so may move their children out of group daycare centers and employ a nanny to limit their child's potential exposure to sickness.

  2. Overwhelm: parents expecting to work from home for the foreseeable future may want a dedicated in-home professional to help with their children while they rebalance their workloads.

  3. Wealth gap expansion: nannies provide a luxury service. During the pandemic, high-wage workers not only retained their jobs, but were also likely to cut back on spending whild low-wage workers were disproportionately more likely to have lost their jobs. Since luxury spending is directly tied to personal levels of wealth and income, it's reasonable to expect that the demand for household employees would also grow as wealth grows. For more on this topic, read this article.



Scenario 2: Shrinking nanny market


We could point out the following reasons for why a "shrinking" scenario would make sense and why there may be less nannies employed in the future than there are now:

  1. Work from home: as businesses enable their employees to have more flexible work arrangements, parents may do a better job of spreading their workload across the day to cater to their children's needs.

  2. Gender inequality in the home worsens: According to research from Deloitte that polled over 5,000 women across the globe, nearly 80% said their workloads increased because of the pandemic, while 66% reported having more responsibilities at home. As those responsibilities increase for women, many are foregoing outside employment to provide care to their children. According to research from the United States Department of Labor, the out-of-home labor participation rate of all women has been steadily declining over the past few years and was exacerbated by the pandemic.



Scenario 3: The market for nannies stays stable


Ultimately, we could argue that the points laid out above for the growth / shrink scenarios neutralize each other and we end up right about where we started.


 

One thing's for sure:

the world still needs nannies. And while we're not sure what the future will look like exactly, we are relatively confident about a few trends that are unfolding when it comes to expectations for nannies.


  1. Hybrid digital education: the pandemic has accelerated migrations from analog experiences of work and education to digital experiences. Nannies: expect to continue to manage hybrid in-person/digital education for your charges, as new modes of dynamic education are explored by school systems struggling to manage education outcomes.

  2. The parents are home to stay: remote / work from home agreements are going to win talent wars. Nannies: prepare to never have the home all to yourself (and the kiddos!) ever again. There's a high likelihood a parent is going to be camped out, tapping away on a keyboard while zooming in on a video call.

  3. You are essential: as frontline essential workers, nannies proved themselves to be resilient, patient caregivers willing to do whatever it took to keep up an amazing level of care for their families through an unprecedented pandemic. Nannies: you are amazing.


 

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