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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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