• Zeynep Erdal

Why women pay a higher price for COVID - and earn less

Just for a second, try and recall who in your area usually takes their grandparents for errands and who stays home with sick kids. Chances your answer is men are about as great as taking a train for your next holiday in Italy while there are flights for 39 EUR. Observations on the global, European and country levels show that women have taken most of the bill for the covid pandemic. So far.

Let's check some evidence first. The results of the European Gender Equality Index 2021 are not exactly astonishing. The index has grown by less than one point to 68 out of a possible 100 since 2020. According to EIGE, the European Institute for Gender Equality, the publishers of the index, the most important thing in the coming years is to manage and mitigate the effects of the pandemic on women and men. It is already now clear from studies that consequences of covid will be longer and harder to tackle for women. Why?

The answer is simpler than a potential solution: In a pandemic, women are more likely to lose their jobs. Although women account for 39 percent of employees globally, according to a McKinsey Institute global report more than half of those who have lost their jobs are women. It is still the case that women do a disproportionately larger share of unpaid work, for example child care, than men.

At the same time, it is empirically proven that equality between men and women in society is closely conditioned by employment equality. According to McKinsey, there is even a risk that the development of equal opportunities in society will not only slow down or stop, but actually turn backwards.

According to the aforementioned EIGE report, the pandemic has not only a strong negative impact on women's employment but also devastating consequences for their health. Not only are women more represented in healthcare, exposing themselves to direct virus infections, but they are also at risk of less obvious fallouts of stress and exhausting experience with seriously sick patients.

What are the learnings here? According to the 2021 SDG Progress Report, women spend about 2.5 times as many hours on unpaid domestic work and care work as men. These numbers are based on data from 90 countries over 18 years, and have yet increased over the pandemic. The times have been especially tough on women with kids under 6 years of age and women entrepreneurs.

The areas that the analyses examined are work, money, lifelong learning opportunities, time, influence, decision-making, health and exposure to violence. I assume that long-term planning discussions and in-depth data analyses can be left to responsible authorities and organisations. The rest of us can start today by asking women around us what they need help with. Looking after the kids, taking their grandpa home from the hospital, or urging the road workers to remove snow from the street where they live?

End of report, now it’s our turn.

Petr Chadraba

The author is a commentator, social democrat working towards inclusion, communication strategist and poet. He lives in Sweden.





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