What Is the Impact of Coronavirus (Covid-19) on the Gender Gap and Women in Particular?
The Coronavirus pandemic is threatening to push back on the gains that have been made to offer women equal economic opportunities as their male counterparts. It’s threatening to widen the gender gaps that have persisted despite more than three decades of progress that has been initiated by various countries, international organizations, and Non-governmental organizations
Tailored government policies to facilitate the recovery pace in a post-Coronavirus (COVID-19) world can alleviate the negative impact of this pandemic on women and stop further setbacks on gender equality. What’s good for women is in the long run good for solving income disparity, economic development, and resilience.
It’s vital that policymakers come up with measures to combat the scarring impact of this pandemic on women in order to stop further setbacks on gender equality.
How has COVID-19 affected women? And why has the pandemic affected women more immensely than men?
There are many reasons.
First, statistics show that women are more likely to work in social sectors compared to men. Such sectors include services industries like retail, hospitality, and tourism. These services need face-to-face interactions. These services have been worst hit by the pandemic because of social distancing, travel restrictions, lockdowns, and other Coronavirus (COVID-19) mitigation measures. The world’s biggest economy, the United States has found out that unemployment among women has grown by 2% points higher compared to men between the months of April-June this year.
Based on the nature of work in the social sectors, teleworking isn’t an option for most women. In the USA, almost 54% of women working in the social sectors can’t work from home. In Brazil, it’s 67%. In low-income nations, only about 12% of the population can work from home. This is mainly due lack of necessary infrastructure like internet connection.
Second, compared to men, women are more likely to work in informal employment in low-income nations. Informal sectors are often salaried in cash with no official regulation, lack of regulation and oversight in this sector by relevant authorities leaves women with a considerable lower pay and no employment benefits like health or pension schemes.
The incomes of informal employees have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Colombia, poverty among women has increased by 3.3% because of the closure of economic activities as a result of government directives or self-imposed quarantines at home. The United Nations estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic will increase the poverty levels by at least 15.9 million in the Caribbean and Latin America. Many of them are women and children.
Third, women often do more unpaid household jobs compared to men, almost 2.7 more hours per day to be exact that is not paid. Women bear the most burden of family care resulting from lockdown measures like school closures. After lockdown measures have been eased, women are the slowest to go back to full employment. The Canadian May job report showed that women’s employment rose only by 1.1% compared with 2.4% for men. This was attributed to childcare issues.
What can governments do to combat the negative impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on women?
It’s vital that governments adopt measures to combat the scarring impact of the Coronavirus on women. This should involve a focus on increasing income support for the financially vulnerable, protecting employment linkages, offering incentives to balance family and work responsibilities, facilitating access to family planning and health care, and increasing support for the self-employed and small businesses. Removal of legal obstacles against women’s empowerment should also be a priority. Some nations have already moved quickly to implementing some of these strategies.
Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, and Italy have come up with a statutory right to a partly paid leave for guardians with kids under a certain age. France has extended sick leave to guardians affected by school closures when no substitute care can be found. This provides some stipend to women who have to take care of their children because of school closures brought about by the pandemic.
In Togo, 65% of participants in the government mobile cash-transfer scheme are women. The scheme enables informal sector workers to obtain grants of up to 30% of the minimum wage in Togo. This has helped the financially vulnerable who lost their employment cope with the pandemic.
Over the longer run, policies can be deliberated to tackle inequality among genders by creating incentives and conditions for women to work. Of particular importance are gender-based fiscal policies like investing in education, offering parental leave, and subsidizing childcare. These policies aren’t only vital in lifting barriers on women’s economic empowerment, but also essential in promoting an inclusive post-Coronavirus recovery.