Working Women, the Intelligence Community, Syrian Refugees: RAND Weekly Recap

blog

December 4, 2020

We discuss how women are being pushed out of America's workforce; what may be ahead for the next Director of National Intelligence; why Syrian refugees can't return home; engaging community volunteers to improve disaster response; how the pandemic is changing the nature of work; and wearable sensor technology in law enforcement.

Woman working from home with young son, photo by ArtMarie/Getty Images

Photo by ArtMarie/Getty Images

Women Are Being Pushed Out of America's Workforce

There were 2.2 million fewer women in the U.S. labor force this past October than at the same time last year. It's not that women are waiting out a difficult job market amid the pandemic, says RAND's Kathryn Edwards. Rather, they're being forced out by disproportionate job loss, shuttered schools, barriers to childcare, pay disparities, and a lack of supportive policies.

But there's a path forward. Federal laws could prohibit employers from asking about salary history, which would decrease the gender wage gap. Employers could also be required to provide more stable and predictable schedules for shift workers, which is linked to longer job tenure for mothers. And policies that support caregivers, such as universal paid family leave, free childcare, and public preschool, would be “truly transformational.”

If America's working women finally receive the investment that they've long been forced to do without, then everyone will be better off, says Edwards.

President-elect Joe Biden stands with his nominees for his national security team at his transition headquarters in the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, November 24, 2020, photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

President-elect Joe Biden stands with the nominees for his national security team, Wilmington, Delaware, November 24, 2020

Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

What Challenges Await the Next DNI?

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated former CIA Deputy Director Avril Haines to be the next Director of National Intelligence. According to RAND experts, choosing an experienced hand could help restore the Intelligence Community's role in informing White House decisionmaking. But significant challenges await the next DNI. For instance, the threat of virtual societal warfare (akin to Russian election interference) remains. And despite budget cuts, the IC will have to invest in new capabilities.

Children play together at Atmeh camp, near the Turkish border, Syria, June 13, 2020, photo by Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

Children play together at Atmeh camp, near the Turkish border, Syria, June 13, 2020

Photo by Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

Syria's Forever War Has Created Forever Refugees

Nearly 10 years into the Syrian civil war, the most likely outcome appears to be a “no deal” political resolution. That means that most of Syria's 5.6 million refugees will never return home, says RAND's Shelly Culbertson. Meanwhile, Syrians abroad face joblessness, poverty, and alarmingly low access to health care and education. Without more diplomatic leadership from Washington to negotiate a formal settlement, refugees could be sentenced to “a state of squalid limbo.”

Members of the Cajun Navy transport loggers to clear power lines after Tropical Storm Florence caused massive flooding in Whiteville, North Carolina, September 17, 2018, photo by Randall Hill/Reuters

Volunteers with the "Cajun Navy" help with emergency response after Tropical Storm Florence, Whiteville, North Carolina, September 17, 2018

Photo by Randall Hill/Reuters

Engaging the Community, Improving Disaster Response

Unprecedented wildfires. A record-breaking hurricane season. The pandemic. 2020 has revealed many lessons about responding to disasters. One is that community volunteers need more support, say RAND experts. Volunteers need personal protective equipment and other resources to be safe and effective. They could also be better integrated with official disaster response teams. This could help identify communities' greatest needs during a crisis—and improve overall response efforts.

Father with kid working from home during quarantine, photo by len4ik/Adobe Stock

Photo by len4ik/Adobe Stock

Does Work Look Different Now Than at the Start of the Pandemic?

To better understand how COVID-19 is transforming the way we work, RAND has surveyed the same group of Americans several times between February and September. At the onset of stay-at-home orders, the rapid shift to teleworking saved many jobs. As the pandemic continues, it appears that some people are starting to return to their workplaces—although most who are able to work from home continue to do so. Of course, millions of Americans are unable to telecommute. And it remains to be seen how telework trends might shift once the need for social distancing subsides.

A man using wearable sensor technology, photo by Prostock-Studio/Getty Images

Photo by Prostock-Studio/Getty Images

Wearable Sensor Technology in Law Enforcement

Wearable sensor technology is used to track health metrics such as body temperature and heart rate. Could these devices help improve the safety, health, and wellness of law enforcement officers? RAND convened an expert workshop to learn more. The participants discussed whether law enforcement officials would be willing to wear these devices; new policies that may be needed; and data privacy concerns.

Get Weekly Updates from RAND

If you enjoyed this weekly recap, consider subscribing to Policy Currents, our newsletter and podcast.