Gabriela Ramos participated in an interview with Virginia Collera of LinkedIn Spain on the impact of the COVID pandemic on women. Find the full interview here. This interview was used to inform an article published by Virginia Collera.
Find Gabriela’s speaking points below.
- The COVID-19 pandemic is a fundamentally social crisis. The virus spreads between people, and impacts individuals, households and communities. Any country’s response to the pandemic must be guided by social data and expertise as much as by medical data and expertise. Failing to identify and address social impacts of the pandemic opens the way for devastating social damage and loss of life.
What is the context? What are the impact of the crisis on women?
- The COVID-19 crisis has made starkly visible that the world’s formal economies and the maintenance of our daily lives are built on the invisible and unpaid labour of women and girls around the world.
- Women with caring responsibilities, informal workers, low-income families and youth are among the hardest hit.
- Women make up 70% of the healthcare workforce globally, around 85% of nurses, 95% of the long-term care workers, and half of doctors in the OECD. This puts them at adverse risk of infection.
- Although women are over-represented in the health care workforce, they are clustered into lower-status [only 25% in leadership position] and lower-paid jobs [average gender pay gap of 28%].
- Women also perform “unpaid” care work at home, spending 3 times as much as men on average across OECD countries and up to 10 times as much globally.
- Women have borne the brunt of the economic disruption caused by lockdowns. Today, nearly 60 % of women around the world work in the informal economy (this number jumps to 73 % when we focus on young women of aged 15-24).
- They earn less, save less, have no adequate social protection, and are constantly at greater risk of falling into poverty. Furthermore, there is an unevenness between men and women in terms of job loss, reflecting the fact that women are more likely to work in services that require interacting with people.
- We also know that women-owned businesses are going through difficult times. Normally, women-owned businesses normally struggle to access credit (8% less chance) and operate business with lower levels of capitalization and more reliant on self-financing. As women-owned businesses are concentrated in customer-facing sectors, they are much more likely than men to expect a drop in sales in this crisis.
- VAW is rising sharply due to the confinement (i.e., 40% increase of reported case in the UK, 40-50% in Brazil and 70% increase in Chile). Even before the crisis, 1 in 3 women suffered domestic violence and 38% of all murders of women are committed by their partners. Furthermore, the victims of violence are twice as likely to experience depression, 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV, 1.5 times more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections.
- All these impacts could potentially bring the biggest disaster for women in developing countries with higher informality, more case of VAW, more demand for unpaid work, and more cases of child marriage, early pregnancy and child labour.
Why is this crisis different from before? 2008 crisis hit men harder but what is the difference this time?
- Evidence from past economic crises suggests that recessions often affect men’s and women’s employment differently, with men historically the biggest losers.
- And indeed, the 2008 financial crisis, for instance, was to some extent a ‘male’ crisis : especially in the early years, job losses were much greater in male-dominated sectors of the economy (notably construction and manufacturing), with women’s working hours actually increasing.
- This time could well be different. This crisis is different in nature to previous ones; it is not just an economic crisis, but also a health and social crisis.
- Many women are already struggling to make it to work at all, given the need for at least one parent to stay home due to school or childcare facility closure. The lucky ones might be able to use teleworking as a partial and temporary solution.
- Beyond this, the confinement and distancing measures being put in place around the world are threatening to shatter several female-dominated industries[i.e., health (70%), air travel (47%); tourism, retail activities, accommodation services (60%), and food and beverage service activities (53%)]
- Also, as just mentioned, the majority of the frontline workers are women and they have little voice.
- At least in the short term, jobs that rely on travel and on physical interaction with customers are clearly vulnerable.
- Regardless of the gendered impact of job and business loss, we know that women are often more vulnerable than men to any sharp loss of income. Across OECD countries, women’s incomes are, on average, lower than men’s, and their poverty rates are higher.
- Women are at a higher risk of poverty than men [Across the OECD, the average relative poverty rate for women is 12.3%, while 10.9% for men. The highest gender gap can be found in Korea, Latvia, Estonia in the OECD].
- Twice as many women as men aged over 65 live alone in G20 countries. Pension payment to 65+ women are 25% lower than for men.
- Also, evidence from the 2008 financial crisis suggests that, in many countries, children in single-parent families were hit much harder by the recession than children in two parent families, not only in terms of income, but also in terms of access to essential material goods and activities such as adequate nutrition and an adequately warm home.
- And the confinement: increasing domestic burden for women and also putting them at higher risk of exposure to domestic violence.
Gender mainstreaming – what is the priority now? Universal health coverage
- It is a key time to apply OECD’s gender budgeting and gender mainstreaming recommendations
- This includes prioritizing the funding of primary healthcare and universal health coverage grounded in gender equality and human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.
- Decision-makers must examine gender-based differences in health expenditures, disease detection and response, emergency preparedness, research and development and the health workforce.
Mass teleworking experience: how women fare in this new environment.
- COVID-19 has an unequal effect on women’s and men’s work and home life: Teleworking (for those who have it as an option) is harder for women to implement as they bear the greater burden of housework and childcare. School closures, caring for sick relatives, and home confinement has made this burden even greater.
- In How’s Life 2020, the OECD highlighted that every day, women in OECD countries work 25 minutes longer than men do when both paid and unpaid work are considered.
- Over a year, this adds up to the equivalent of 4 months’ of a full-time job.
- And this is also all down to the digital gender divide that we have been experiencing even from before the crisis, globally.
- Women, on average, have less access, less exposure and less experience with digital technologies than men, potentially putting them at a disadvantage when working remotely. Especially when coupled with their greater care responsibilities, women workers are likely to find it particularly difficult to work at full capacity through any period of sustained telework.
- Nevertheless, fortunate impacts is that women may gain digital skills to help close key digital skills gaps.
- Further good news from transition to digital à In the public sector, some countries are also expanding flexible working options to help parents juggle work and care.
For example, Ireland has introduced a host of flexible working opportunities for public sector employees, including teleworking, flexible shifts, staggered shifts, longer opening hours and weekend working. An innovative practice involves requiring employees to work in different roles or organisations on a temporary basis to effectively facilitate the flexible work options while allowing delivery of critical services.