- Women have advanced a lot in the office space over the past few years, but it could collapse as they commence bearing the impact of COVID-19 induced recession.
- Currently, women make up the majority of employees in sectors like leisure, hospitality, retail, and tourism that have been the hardest hit from the pandemic.
- BLS figures for June reflected that 11.2% of women above the age of 20 were unemployed than 10.1% of men over 20.
- Women lost flexibility when employers were deciding on layoffs as the entire childcare sector was shut down due to COVID-19 outbreak.
- There has been a global surge in domestic violence cases during coronavirus induced lockdowns because of rise in stress, violent behaviour, unemployment, and lost incomes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment where large swathes of population are confronting threats to their physical and financial wellbeing, which if left unchecked could accelerate the gender divides. The pandemic and the induced measures taken to halt its spread have inevitably hit women much harder than men.
Before the pandemic, women were already grappling with a century-long wait to attain equality with males, the formidable challenge now threatens to be more out of control if the structural inequalities exacerbated by the epidemic are overlooked.
Record unemployment numbers, concerns surrounding reopening of schools, and the burden of household works has made women to worry and suffer more, placing them at a position wherein they have to choose between families and their jobs.
According to OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), women make up 70% of the global healthcare workers, and 95% of long-term care workers. Yet, women not only sacrifice their lives to rescue others, but they also make up the bulk of workers in areas of a country that have been struck hardest by lockdowns.
Pressure building for working mothers
Amid stay-at-home scenario, working mothers experienced extra strain. According to corporate management consultant, Boston Consulting Group, women are investing 15 additional hours per week on domestic labour compared to men.
As per the International Labour Organization, women shoulder 3/4th of all unpaid care work.
Mothers bear most of the childcare burden and domestic chores in most families. Many females who quit work, for the short term or on a permanent basis, for fulfilling childcare requirements are usually in the middle position of their career path, when they could have pursued the elevated management designation.
Harvard economist, Claudia Goldin has lately stated that there could be long-term harm caused to women’s career paths if offices begin before childcare and schools 100% resume.
Mothers are worried about putting themselves at risk of redundancy or falling into problems at work, as they have not been able to perform as good as they normally do. Even though women feel safe in their jobs or incomes, many say that they are not likely to carry on in the same way for much longer period.
Women are expected to carry out a second round of shift at home once their workday at office ends. Now, coronavirus has forced women to work 2 shifts at the same time, and the mental health toll is driving women to contemplate losing or actually leaving their careers.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that unemployment numbers in June showed that 11.2% of women aged over 20 are unemployed, which is a percentage point higher than their male counterparts’ unemployment in the same age group.
Women majorly work in areas that are hard struck by the pandemic
Females are more prone to carry employments in areas struck hard by the economic slump, for example service and retail related companies. Majority of the women have cited childcare as the major reason for not being able to work further.
IMF officials have asserted that coronavirus pandemic has threatened to roll back improvements in economic prospects of women, broadening gender gaps that continues even after 30 years of progress.
Females often have an unbalanced employment in sectors, without proper amenities in place like paid maternity and paid medical leaves structure, in the absence of the same, women cannot afford to take a few days off from work to take care of infants or aging kin or even themselves.
As per BLS, 55% of employees in the eatery and housing sector do not have the facility to apply for paid leave. About 66% of tipped restaurant workers in the US are women who already struggle with low wages, variable hours and very few incentives.
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Women are also engaged in care-giving roles for elderly that can put them at risk to the pandemic. National Nurses United has stated that about 30% of the nurses who were surveyed confirmed that employers had sufficient personal protective equipment stock on hand to guard staff if there is a speedy rise in patients with COVID-19 infections.
Domestic violence cases increase globally
The pandemic has increased the number of domestic violence cases all over the world. WHO’s regional office has confirmed that emergency services across Europe have witnessed a steep rise in domestic abuse calls amid lockdown. The organisation stated that domestic violence cases often increased at the time of crisis and intensified due to containment measures put in place amid COVID-19.
Tensions, damage of social networks, enhanced financial deprivation and decreased availability of services may intensify the threat of violence to females. Countries like China, the US, the UK, India, Australia, and others have reported cases of increased domestic violence. Several studies have evidence of the detrimental effects of lost income, unemployment and economic hardship on marital conflicts, parenting quality and child wellbeing.
As per, World Health organization’s report the Mediterranean areas (East part) has recorded second most incidences of violence against females worldwide at 37 percent. It is attributed to fundamental systems that sustain gender disparities at various stages of our society on the whole, exacerbated by party-political tensions and social economic uncertainty in an area.
Swift action needed to protect women
IMF has stated that governments, worldwide can take steps to avert further deterioration in women progress by extending unemployment insurances or forming incentives that can balance work and family care responsibilities to alleviate the burden.
The Fund also stated that policies must be designed to tackle gender inequality and investment in education, providing healthcare and childcare subsidies, as well as offering parental leave can be vital for everyone, especially women.
Coronavirus has exposed the inequalities that remain embedded in our culture, be it gender or ethnicity, and shows how closely we are all interrelated. Hence, COVID-19 pandemic has also raised a gender and equality issue that needs attention and response from people, especially towards the most vulnerable women.