COVID-19 fallout takes a higher toll on women, economically and domestically

While women appear to be more resilient than men to COVID-19 in terms of health outcomes, that is not the case when it comes to the economic and social fallout. Measures taken by governments to control the spread of the virus are exacerbating gender divides in unemployment, domestic labour and financial security, all to the disadvantage of women. Meanwhile, work–life conflict is escalating as people work from home, with mothers of small children often bearing the brunt of the impact.

The imminent downturn in the wake of the lockdowns across Europe is likely to affect women’s job prospects more than men’s, and the first official labour market statistics seem to be a sign of things to come. Eurostat’s monthly unemployment data show that while the male unemployment rate increased from 6.2% in February to 6.3% in March 2020, the increase among women was greater, from 6.7% to 7.0%. [1] A similar trend is apparent in the United States, but more striking due to the availability of statistics for April. Here the male monthly unemployment rate increased from 3.3% in February to 4% in March and then jumped to 13% in April; unemployment among women hit 15.5% in April, rising from 3.1% in February and 4% in March. [2]

The reason why the COVID-19 measures are taking a disproportionate toll on women in the labour market is the gender imbalances across different jobs in the economy. Firstly, except for healthcare, men are more likely to work in what are considered essential economic activities, such as transportation, protection services (policing, for instance), farming, and maintenance and repairs, so they are more protected from unemployment. Secondly, the COVID-19 crisis has hit many services that involve frequent contact with customers and clients, and for which telework is not possible, such as retail, leisure and personal service activities, hospitality, and travel and tourism – some of the sectors in which women tend to dominate numerically…….link

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  1. ^ Eurostat (2020), Euro area unemployment at 7.4% , news release, Brussels, 30 April.
  2. ^ United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020), Employment situation , PDF version, Washington, D.C., April.
  3. ^ Eurofound (2018), Striking a balance: Reconciling work and life in the EU , Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.