The COVID-19 pandemic has hit women harder than men. ” COVID-19 has had a devastating social and economic impact on girls and women. It’s reversed decades of fragile progress in gender equality,” said Antonia Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General.
Research shows that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic and similar crises than men’s jobs.
According to Avni Amin, a scientist at WHO, “What has disproportionately affected women is the loss of employment. This is because they work in informal sectors with no financial protection.” For example, 90% of the workforce in Sub-Saharan Africa comprises informal workers, most of whom are women.
These jobs are at risk due to the pandemic. Want to know why? In this post, we’ll discuss why women are paying a heavier price during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Worsening Gender Poverty Gaps
In times of distress such as the COVID-19 pandemic, social and economic gaps widen. These gaps leave various sectors of society to recover at different rates. “Women might experience slower financial recovery. This will widen the existing gap and slow the advances women made worldwide,” said Belinda Archibong, Professor of Economics at Columbia University.
Research shows that women make up 70% of the global health workforce. As such, they’ve highly represented on the front lines. Some of the roles women hold in the health workforce include:
- Enrolled Nurse
- Clinical nurse
- Registered Nurse
- Nursing assistant
- Medical Doctor
- Patient services officer
- Patient services clerk
- Health information services clerk
- Medical records clerk
- Medical records administrator
- Medical receptionist
- Medical secretary
Since women are highly represented on the front lines, they are frequently exposed to COVID-19 infected patients. According to UN Women, out of all health care workers infected with COVID-19 in Spain, 72% were women, while in Italy, 66% were women.
In the US, women made up 46% of the workforce before the pandemic. But due to lockdown measures and effects of COVID-19, women make up more than 43% of job losses. In India, the situation is similar. Women made up 20% of the workforce, but due to COVID-19, the number of job losses resulting from the pandemic is 17%.
One significant factor that creates the gender gap is the nature of work. Men and women tend to cluster in different occupations. This is true in both developed and developing nations. As such, this shapes the gender implication women are currently facing due to COVID-19.
Globally, 4.5% of women’s employment is at risk compared to 3.8% of men given the industries both genders participate in. Some of the worst affected sectors are:
- Retail and wholesale trade – 43% of job loss among women
- Arts, Recreation and Public Administration – 46% of job loss among women
- Education and Healthcare – 50% or more job loss among women
Women from poor and marginalized areas face higher losses of livelihood. For example, a single mother in Guatemala had a job in the informal sector. Due to the effects of COVID-19, she has no job and no unemployment benefits or other forms of financial protection.
This means she cannot take care of her child, pay her bills, and other expenses. If she is renting a home, the landlord will probably kick her out due to unpaid rent or the inability to pay rent.
The situation is similar in other marginalized areas such as South Sudan, Malawi, Somalia, and others. Even women running small businesses cannot bring food to the table or pay rent for their business premises.
In South Sudan, a single mother of three sold beans, maize, and groundnuts at a local market. Before COVID-19, she was making more than $100 a week. After COVID-19 hit and the country required all citizens to adhere to lockdown measures, her income reduced by more than a half (less than $50).
Her story is also playing out in developed nations in Europe and Asia. Research shows that 25% of self-employed women have already lost their jobs compared to 21% of men. According to the International Labor Organization, 140 million full-time jobs may be lost due to the pandemic. Of these, women’s unemployment is 19% more at risk than men’s.