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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen renewed her call for enhanced government subsidies for child care at a conference on women’s economic opportunity Saturday, a policy priority the Biden administration failed to win passage for in Congress.
“A wide body of research has shown that high-quality, affordable child care and free preschool increase the likelihood that parents, particularly mothers, will participate in the workforce,” Yellen said in remarks prepared for delivery Saturday at Vermont Technical College.
President Joe Biden’s sweeping legislative package unveiled in 2021 and known as Build Back Better included more substantial subsidies for child care and early education than was funded by the bill that eventually passed this year, the Inflation Reduction Act.
Yellen pointed to the wider benefits of bringing more women into the workforce, one element of what she has termed modern supply-side economics -- a series of measures aimed at bolstering the productive capacity of the economy.
The Treasury chief said the share of women participating in the US labor force nearly doubled from 1950 to 2000, by when it reached 60%. That helped to drive economic growth, but the proportion has since leveled off. She cited research estimating that raising the women’s participation rate to the same as for males -- 68% -- would lift economic output by 5%.
Policies aimed at closing the gender pay gap would also help, Yellen said. “It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the economically beneficial thing to do,” said Yellen, the first woman to run the US Treasury.
Yellen also attacked the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn the landmark abortion ruling, Roe v. Wade, as a “deeply consequential step backward.”
“Denying women the ability to make decisions about when and whether to have children limits their ability to control their economic future and to make decisions that are best for them and their families,” she said.
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