As the Prime Minister of India announced a complete lockdown of 21 days in the country, people are getting more anxious about the future and how will they cope with the larger economic dent that Coronavirus will bring globally.
As much of normal life has been suspended for close to two months or more, job losses will also be inevitable. Like always the job losses are going to hit women more than men. Not just that, the research shows that the pandemic is going to globally affect women overall as well. Here’s why.
In a heterosexual relationship, the woman is more likely to be the lower earner, which makes their jobs to be at a lower priority when disruptions come along. And this particular disruption could last longer than expected. With the schools closed, many fathers will undoubtedly step up, but that won’t be universal.
The closure of schools to control COVID-19 transmission in China, Hong Kong, Italy, South Korea, and in many others will have a differential effect on women as 72 percent of those working in schools are women and 95.6 percent of women are childcare workers.
A huge percentage of women either work in industries that’s full of casual workers and don't have a provision of paid leaves or in industries that'll be hardest hit by the COVID-19- induced economic slump like fashion. In fashion, 84.2 percent of employees are women, in department stores 66.1 percent of employees are women.
Travel restrictions like discontinuation of Metros, local trains, autos and rickshaws cause uncertainty for mostly female domestic workers hence leading to financial challenges.
Hence, it is believed that the combination of insecure employment and exposure to economic shock will hit women harder.
Not just that, more women are more vulnerable to the virus because Indian healthcare comprises 70% of female healthcare workers like nurses and midwives who are treating the virus infected people day and night. According to Chinese health authorities at least 3,300 health-care workers got infected and 13 amongst them died.
Women are also ultimately unpaid caregivers in almost every home. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), women perform 76.2%-80% of total hours of unpaid care work which is more than three-times men do. As health systems will get burdened, many people with COVID-19 will need to be cared for at home, adding to women’s overall burden, as well as putting them at greater risk of becoming infected.
Despite the 20th century seeing the entry of more and more women into the workforce, the phenomenon of the “second shift” and “super mom complex” still exists. Which means that women across the world have to double up as a working woman and as a homemaker compromising on their leisure time. Even today, the household tasks such as food shopping are primarily shouldered by women and working from home just makes it difficult for them to manage time and juggle between the two affecting their mental health.
Research shows that globally 16% of women as compared to 11% of men were found stressed due to COVID-19. Nearly four in ten women (36%) and three in ten men (27%) felt that coronavirus has had some impact on their mental health. According to WHO, women are generally the majority of sufferers in the areas of depression, anxiety and somatic complaints. For both men and women, social distancing has added another level of social isolation, depression, and anxiety on top of worrying about the negative consequences of the coronavirus.
The Lancet, in their article on the ‘Gendered impacts of the outbreak’ state that, if we as a society don’t want disease outbreaks like COVID-19 to perpetuate gender and health inequities, it is important that gender norms, roles, and relations that influence women's and men's differential vulnerability are considered and addressed.
It is very important for the governments and global health institutions to consider the sex and gender effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, and conduct an analysis of the gendered impacts of the multiple outbreaks, incorporating the voices of women on the front line.