Women Are Less Likely Than Men to Regain Employment Post Covid19: ILO Report
Multiple studies have pointed out how job cuts due to the pandemic disproportionately impacted women. Experts now believe that as the economy slowly inches back to normal, the gender ratio in the global workforce may further skew against women — undoing the small progress made by society towards gender equality at the workplace.
Unfortunately, according to the report, men’s employment is expected to recover to 2019 levels, but 13 million fewer women will stay employed in 2021 compared to 2019 — suggesting the long-term, gendered impact of the pandemic.
Earlier reports have noted how women faced the disproportionate impact of the pandemic. According to a report published by the International Labor Organization yesterday, between 2019 and 2020, women’s employment declined by 4.2% globally — with 54 million women losing their jobs. On the other hand, men’s employment declined by 3% even though they lost 60 million jobs — indicating that fewer women than men were employed anyway before the pandemic struck, but its impact managed to affect a greater percentage of women, threatening gender parity.
Women may find it harder to go back to employment due to a number of reasons. For one, the pandemic has hit sectors with high female employment, like leisure, retail (including garment manufacturing), hospitality, education, and tourism. “The greater vulnerability of women to job losses is due to the segmentation of female laborers into sectors that are the most negatively affected by coronavirus disruptions,” according to a 2020 analysis.
In addition, the pandemic has also strengthened gender stereotypes — with housework and childcare becoming the women’s responsibility in the absence of domestic workers — an aspect that could further hamper women’s return to the workforce, according to experts.
The trend is evident across other economic crises too. In fact, even when previous recessions affected men’s employment more, women took longer to return back to employment.
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Even before the pandemic wreaked havoc upon the global economy, society was already grappling with a colossal gender gap in employment. The World Economic Forum predicted in the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 that: “None of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, and nor likely will many of our children.”
Covid19 had already made the situation worse — now, it appears the process of recovery won’t automatically “counterbalance [its] gender-specific effects” unless policymakers explicitly target gender-specific recovery, the present report states.
According to the report, ensuring equal pay is provided for work of equal value across gender, and pushing for women’s participation in decision-making bodies and social dialogues could aid gender-specific recovery.
In addition, just like domestic violence, work-related gender-based violence and harassment worsened during the pandemic, “undermining women’s ability to engage in paid employment.” To prevent this from widening the gender gap in employment, the ILO recommended greater social protection for women at work.
Among steps taken by governments to support the livelihoods of women during the pandemic, the report mentions the Indian government’s cash transfer scheme for women. While the step may not have solved gender disparity, it could certainly prove to be a small step in the right direction — especially, if implemented properly.
Further, the report also suggested greater investment in the “care economy” — or public services for childcare, early education, and care for the elderly and persons with disabilities — since they are “important generators of jobs, especially for women, and because care leave policies and flexible working arrangements can encourage a more even division of work at home between women and men.”