As they steer Massachusetts through the pandemic, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito have released a new report on the future of work. It’s an economic blueprint for rebuilding the economy that includes new plans for child care.
Before the pandemic, Massachusetts had a thriving economy with a conventional “look” that included commuters traveling by car or public transportation to offices in busy commercial areas.
But now — in the wake of layoffs, less business travel, and more Zoom meetings – Massachusetts could see less demand for office spaces, shifts in employment, and the worsening of pre-existing social inequities.
To address these challenges, the report explores “what work could look like… in both the near term (to 2025) and the longer term (to 2030),” across the state’s “regions, economic sectors, commercial centers, local downtowns, transportation, and public spaces.”
Among the top eight insights in the report:
• “Hybrid work will likely drive demand for flexible childcare options, requiring the childcare business model to evolve,” and
• “Reskilling may be required at an unprecedented scale and pace.” (Which we think could mean more demand for child care from parents enrolled in training programs.)
The report points out that job recovery for women nationally is expected to occur 18 months after the recovery for men, and “a lack of access to affordable, flexible childcare – a challenge even before the pandemic – will likely exacerbate these problems.”
“In the Massachusetts Future of Work Survey, 13 percent of respondents with children said they might resume working or enter the workforce if they had access to additional childcare.”
In addition, the report notes, “Massachusetts is among the lowest ranked states for affordability and has some of the highest housing costs and most expensive childcare services. Our analysis highlights the need for up to 125,000-200,000 additional housing units by 2030 to bring Massachusetts up to national vacancy benchmarks and 25,000-30,000 additional childcare workers to provide sufficient and flexible childcare.”
And as Strategies for Children’s Amy O’Leary explained to WBZ in a news story about the report, better communication between employees and employers is an essential way to understand child care needs. And having “more public funding” and “more flexible funding” will help early education programs survive.
Fortunately, as Baker says in a press release, his administration is “pursuing significant investments in housing, job-training and downtown development through our plan to invest $2.9 billion in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. We are also making investments and using other tools to provide more flexibility for residents in child care and transportation, and we look forward to continuing to partner with workers, businesses and communities to respond to the needs raised in this report.”
And last week, when Baker signed the fiscal year ‘22 budget into law, he did not veto any early education and care funding, a strong sign, along with the future of work report, of his administration’s commitment to investing in high-quality early education and care in the future.
The report’s good news: despite the pandemic and the unaddressed challenges of the past, Massachusetts can remain competitive.
“This means leaning into its strength as a bastion for world class talent by reskilling and equipping residents with the skills needed for future occupations and retaining them with improved affordability and meeting the fundamental needs of housing and childcare,” the report says in part.
“It means ensuring Massachusetts remains an attractive state for employers to create future jobs. It means adapting to where people will spend time in the future and ensuring offices, business, leisure, and retail adapt to these as well. And it means addressing head-on the rising inequalities that many of these trends are fueling.”
If this state “can rise to the challenge and accomplish these goals, the opportunity to create an inclusive economy that provides opportunities for everyone and remains an attractive place for businesses and residents could become the next chapter for Massachusetts.”
We look forward to seeing how the state fulfills this potential by strengthening and improving child care.