How the surge of COVID-19 is affecting women disproportionately

With governments worldwide grappling with policies to ensure the safety of its citizens while preventing detriments in its economies, the pandemic has further exposed the structural inequalities between genders. The pandemic’s interruption of economies and societies has presented women and girls with disadvantageous disproportionate impacts.

Here are ways which the pandemic has disproportionately affected women and girls:

Amplified domestic gender norms

As a result of school closures and increased pressure towards the healthcare system in response to the pandemic, existing gender norms are further emphasised. Females in the family are more than ever expected to care for their relatives and children while balancing their jobs.

According to the UN Women, before the crisis, women did nearly three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men. In the US alone, 40% of women claimed they did most of the childcare and housework compared to 12% of men who did the same. However, new research by LeanIn.Org and SurveyMonkey found that 80% of mothers have taken on more household work since the pandemic has started.

These amplified domestic expectations can impact women's mental health due to the need to balance their domestic responsibilities and their jobs, which can additionally affect their work performance. This would be based on the assumption that all jobs can be done digitally, yet not everyone has that privilege.

Michèle Tertilt, an economist at Mannheim University in Germany, found that men were likely to be in jobs that were able to continue digitally as opposed to women – 28% for men versus the 22% for women. Therefore, as some women are unable to complete their jobs digitally from the comfort of their homes, they are likely to experience a decline in their work performance from the need to handle their amplified domestic responsibilities.

Relatively more pressure in female personal finance

Women are likely to feel the consequences of being furloughed from business closures as part of the government lockdown policies. According to the UK’s Institute for Fiscal Studies, women are one-third more likely to work in a sector profoundly affected or entirely shut down by the pandemic, compared to men. This is based on the assumption that women, especially the relatively young, are likely to work in sectors such as retail and hospitality industries. By living off a wage salary and with some being single mothers, they are likely to feel a crunch in their finances.

This trend is not unique to Britain. For example, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that women’s unemployment, which was lower than men’s before April 2020, skyrocketed from 2.7 million to 11.5 million compared to men’s that went from 3.55 million to 11 million.

The situation is particularly worse in the Asia and Pacific regions. A UN Women’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) 2020 report found that women are losing their livelihoods faster and are finding it harder to find job replacements than men in these regions.

The combination of having job security uncertainty while needing to balance gender norm expectations means that women are likely to be both mentally and financially vulnerable, which further highlights the disproportionate impact the pandemic is having on them.

Increase in domestic violence

While domestic violence can affect both women and men, women experience it at a more disproportionate amount. The need to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus alongside the stress of being in crowded houses, the presence of uncertainty in employment and wealth, and being left with no choice but to isolate with abusers has seen a surge in domestic violence.

According to UN Women, since the lockdown, several countries have experienced an increase in domestic violence reports by 25%. For instance, in France, cases rose by a third during the first week of lockdown. Furthermore, in Singapore, cases have increased by 33% as of April 2020. These statistics derive only from those who reported their experiences, therefore, numbers could be higher.

Nonetheless, the diversion of resources to deal with the pandemic means that despite reaching out for support, the victims are unable to meet the sufficient provisions, due to the current state of overstrained police, health, and social services.

The pandemic has no doubt been rough for everyone, however, the situation we are currently in has further highlighted the disparity between both genders.

Czarlene Adoptante

Final year, History (BA)