A Window Into The World Of Women

HOW COVID-19 IS AFFECTING WOMEN

According to Mckinsey, women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs. Women make up 39 percent of global employment but account for 54 percent of overall job losses .This pandemic has defied the trend that other recessions had on labour market. In previous recessions , the crunch was more on men and because of that they were famously known as “Mancessions”  or equally on men and women but now it has become “shecession”.

The disproportionate impact on men’s employment of earlier recessions were due to the fact that men did more construction and manufacturing work which are mainly affected in any business downturn  .This pandemic is peculiar in the sense that it is affecting sectors which tend to be stable in any fluctuation of business cycle, but are severely affected due to lockdown and social distancing. Due to occupational segregation, women tend to be working more in jobs which are more flexible in order to have work-family balance. As a result of which they are employed more in areas like teaching, hospitality, and other ‘contact-based’ services. For example , According to NSSO data (1970 – 2018) , for urban women, the service sector has become increasingly significant, with its share in employment rising from 35.7% in 1977-78 to 60.7% in 2017-18. In this sector, women have become concentrated in professions such as teaching and nursing, which offer only limited scope for career progression.

Source: THE WORLD ECONOMY FORUM – Data showing difference between rise in women’s and men’s unemployment – US recessions from 1948 to 2020

This is of course the first reason as to why this pandemic is reversing the trend. The second reason is due to the stereotype prevalent in society, that compels women to face  greater burden of unpaid household chores and childcare. This pandemic led to shutting down of schools and offices making everyone confined to their home.  This is becoming stressful for working women as they have to manage their office work with increased and unequal childcare and household chores. Many women are choosing to either reduce their working hours or leave the job , pushing the gender gap in employment to become wider. Nearly 2 million women are considering taking a leave of absence or leaving the workforce altogether, according to the McKinsey ‘Women in the Workplace’ report. Indian women are spending an estimated 30% more time on domestic work during Covid-19, according to McKinsey estimates. Now, working remotely while the entire family is at home, they have to do both shifts at the same time, along with an increased load of household responsibilities. In fact, now with offices opening up, there will be another challenge for many women – where do they keep their children when they go to work, how safe is it to appoint a help. Research says, because of dropping out, women are not able to invest much in human capital resulting in less wage , widening gender wage gap.

“First of all, it takes some time to find a new job,  but what’s actually more important is that it’s even more difficult to find a job that is comparable and to get back to the same career position.”

Third , women are less employed in jobs that allow them to telecommute (Monthly labour review-  22% female workers in comparison to 28% male workers). How can you do services like hospitality and retail work in a ZOOM meeting?

Even if women dominated services like nursing is in full swing in this pandemic , there is serious discrimination women are facing in this field. With women comprising of the bulk of the world’s frontline health workers, both formally at work and informally at home, they are at significant risk of infection. PPE kits’ shortage was normal in the beginning of this pandemic , and even if they were available , they tend to be ill-fitted for women as most PPE are designed and sized based on a male template . The low availability of properly-fitting PPE, together with the high rates of women involved in frontline health worker, may explain why in some countries the infections among female health workers are more than twice that of male health workers.

Teachers are having double responsibility. First, they have to take care of their child in their home and also take care of school children in online classes.

Text Box: The biggest challenge in covid-19 pandemic is to keep students engaged in online setting , we can’t monitor them properly but teachers are putting tremendous efforts to guide students.
Ms. Ishrat Tanki , Chairperson/ Principal ,Firdous Educational Institute , Baramulla , Kashmir in talk with Her-World India  says


Source: embl.org

On the other hand, domestic violence is rising because of stress , loss of job , increased family burden, women being forced to be confined with their abusive partners. According to the official data of the National Commission for Women (NCW), domestic violence complaints have increased by 2.5 times since the nationwide lockdown began in India. Some of the researchers are referring to this as the next pandemic or shadow pandemic of India.


Source : Statista

How it is the effect in different for different cohorts

The gruesome effect of covid-19 is different for different sets of people.

In India, women tend to be employed more in informal sector which is low paying, has poor working condition and lack social security. For example,  In India, 94% of women are employed in the unorganised sector. And these jobs are the worst affected in covid-19 pandemic. Globally, 58 per cent of employed women work in informal employment, and estimates suggest that during the first month of the pandemic, informal workers globally lost an average of 60 per cent of their income, making women more vulnerable than ever.

This pandemic is becoming harder on single parents specifically single mothers. There are 13 million households run by single mothers in the country, an estimated 4.5% of all households, according to a United Nations Women report in 2019. There is no other person to bring money to the home , making them helpless ,  specially at the time when companies are laying off employees , and no one to share household responsibility.

It has also uncovered the exploitation black women have to face. Black women are employed more in jobs that are seriously affected by covid like hospitality making them suffer a lot. These jobs are low paying. Their health infrastructure accessibility is not at par with white women putting them in riskier condition.

The road ahead

Experts feel that this ‘shecession’  will have long lasting impact giving a huge setback to the women’s movement for equality that was reaching its goal gradually for over a century . According to LinkedIn data referenced in the report, women are being hired back at slower rate than men as workplace opened up again. Governments need to understand that women are economies’ immunity and they are vital to fight COVID-19 and make sure that no economy catches this virus. The policy need to be well drafted and the need of the hour is gender specific and not gender neutral budgets and policies. Many provisions like state funded childcare facilities or flexible working conditions, safe and pragmatic return to work programmes e.t.c. will help women get back to work or abstain them from leaving their jobs. This is a difficult time for all of us and calls for united effort in terms of father- mother, government – family, government- individual e.t.c. Women are resilient, women working as doctors , nurses, teachers , e.t.c. are putting their 100% to fight this pandemic.  Dr. Shakuntala Kumar , Head, Nulife Hospital, Delhi in conversation with Her-World India talked about her life in the pandemic and how she was committed to her job even after losing closed one in this pandemic.

This pandemic is unprecedent and unique but I know one thing women have the capability to fight with anything because

She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them – Beau Taplin ( internationally recognised author)

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