Deepening gender inequality because of pandemic-provoked recession is a serious issue for women because the virus is still gaining ground worldwide. Is it winning? Hopefully not – but it is a grave issue all the same, with multiple consequences, unlikely to end even when the mass production of the vaccine reaches us.
Multiple media outlets – including The Economist of June 6 – report that the unfolding pandemic-rooted recession is the worst we have seen since WWII. As different from the previous recessions, it struck mostly face-to-face/relationship-based businesses – like hospitality, restaurants, schools, and healthcare. And this resulted in the women-dominated industries shutting down the most. As a result, it enhanced gender inequality even more, as shown at the graph below where women’s unemployment spikes in the US
Whether the temporary layoffs will become permanent or not is unclear. Even education and healthcare have not been spared, with 5 times as many women losing their jobs as men. This is a plain gender inequality. The higher-skilled women are less likely to lose their jobs than lower-skilled ones, the most vulnerable demographic under the pandemic, according to The Economist.
Women suffer the most, inevitably
Now we see two kinds of women who suffer:
- A worse-case scenario are women from service industries who cannot work from home.
- A better-case scenario are women who work from home – along with their husbands – and they are happy they have jobs; however, they get interrupted by kids 50% as much. Most childcare plus household chores are on them, so quality of their work suffers. For example, academic journals report less submissions from women, while men’s submissions remain the same level. Somehow, men always get an easier ride.
In both scenarios, the safest outcome for women may be to look around for a new job—at places where one can search jobs across the whole Internet. But even modern job search engines do not guarantee success.
Not everything looks grim though. There is a silver lining to the pandemic situation for women, of 2 types:
Silver lining type 1: the remote working became normal: before the pandemic, only one in 50 Americans worked from home full-time. By April, more than one in three did—huge difference—and many of them are women. That is be good news for mothers who pick jobs that fit around their children, with more forgiving hours and less commute.
Silver lining type 2: The new norms for labor distribution at the home front – with more involvement of men – will hopefully benefit women. Every little helps, right?
Is the silver lining all-positive? NO! IT’S CONTROVERSIAL. Why? Because with more household workload, women are thrown back in time to probably the 50-s of the previous century.
An important thing for us women is that fatigue from lockdown and social distancing situation is accumulating in both men and women—and it stains relationships. We need to keep in mind that the prize for our patience is big: it is life itself!
We, fellow women, need to recognize the current pandemic for what it means for us, provoking higher women unemployment and, consequently, deeper gender inequality. A steep climb for gender equality lies ahead—so, stay healthy and strong!
Thank you for your understanding. Follow me of you can, please.