Rural Workforce Panel Discusses Remote Work and Child Care

Rural remote work
Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

Rural communities should provide additional child care alternatives and flexible work conditions to overcome worker shortages caused by the pandemic, according to experts at a Monday debate on the matter.

The conversation was part of a webinar hosted by the Center for Rural Policy and Development that focused on the pandemic’s economic and labour effect in rural Minnesota. A researcher, a state economic analyst, and an economic educator, as well as Waseca County Administrator Michael Johnson, were among the panellists.

Here’s what was said about child care slots.

“We’re well short and we know that and we hear about that from each of our cities. We’ve really been trying to figure out what is the county’s role in this.”

Michael Johnson, Waseca County Administrator

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, women’s employment in rural Minnesota declined considerably between 2012 and 2021. During the pandemic, the population of southwest Minnesota, which includes Mankato, dropped dramatically.

According to Luke Greiner, a regional labor market analyst for Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development, or DEED, child care allows more women to enter the workforce. Areas without it, as well as firms that do not provide flexible telework choices, are effectively cutting out potential employees.

He admitted that remote work isn’t for everyone, but businesses that have offered some kind of it since the outbreak should remember how valuable it can be in the post-pandemic era. It might make the difference between working in the Twin Cities and staying in or moving to a rural region for remote work.

“It would be foolish to forget all the flexibility we’ve been able to accomplish through teleworking the last few years.”

Luke Greiner, Labor Market Analyst, Minnesota’s Department of Employment

Johnson told the panel that he’ll be looking for information on how many individuals are relocating to Waseca County and other rural regions because of new remote employment options and cheaper living expenses. Waseca and other places like it may benefit if people realize they can work remotely while receiving twice as much housing for half the price, he added.

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