ILO: Job Losses Due to Covid19 Have Already Disproportionately Hit Women


Jul 1, 2020


Image Credit: Reuters

In its latest report, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has said that worldwide, an estimated 14% of working hours, equivalent to 400 million full-time jobs, have been lost in the second quarter of 2020 due to Covid19. The figure accounts for people working shorter hours, those who have been furloughed, laid off, or been withdrawn from the labor force.

While disruptions in the labor market have affected all categories of workers, and some groups, including informal and young workers, have been hit particularly hard, the current report has highlighted how the pandemic will have a “disproportionate and damaging effect” on women.

First, a large proportion, or 40% of all employed women, work in sectors such as food, hospitality, retail, and real estate. These have been severely hit by the crisis. The number of women (42%) working informally in these sectors is also larger than men (32%) which means that not only are women more vulnerable to losing jobs because of being employed in these hard-hit sectors, but their informal status is more likely to result in them being laid off as compared to men.

Second, as per ILO’s estimates, 55 million domestic workers around the world are at a significant risk of losing their means of livelihood as a result of the lockdown. The vast majority – around 37 million – of these at-risk domestic workers are women.

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In addition, approximately 70% of workers in the health and social work sector are women. However, they tend to be engaged in positions that require low skills and offer less pay, increasing their chances of being laid off, the report stated.

And last, the unequal burden of care work and household chores, exacerbated by the pandemic, has cut down on the time women would otherwise dedicate to work or add to be able to work extra shifts. This increases their chances of underperforming and ultimately being laid off. In a recent European online survey, 10.6% of female respondents (aged 35 to 49) reported that, during the crisis, family responsibilities prevented them (always or most of the time) from devoting the required time to their jobs, compared with 6.7% of male respondents, the current report highlighted. The situation for single parents, 78% of whom around the world are women, has only become worse.

The latest labor force survey data shows that the Covid19 pandemic may threaten the gains we have made to achieve gender equality in the labor market. Previous crises have shown that when women lose their jobs, their engagement with unpaid care work increases, and in situations when job opportunities are scarce, they are denied work, as roles are passed on to men instead.

“The bigger their losses in employment during the lockdown phase and the greater the scarcity of jobs in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, the harder it will be for women’s employment to recover,” the report stated.


Written By Anubhuti Matta

Anubhuti Matta is an associate editor with The Swaddle. When not at work, she’s busy pursuing kathak, reading books on and by women in the Middle East or making dresses out of Indian prints.


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