In a recent report, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has highlighted that while all categories of workers have been affected, and most hit hard, during the COVID-19 outbreak, the pandemic will have a “disproportionate and damaging effect” on women.
The report said that globally, an estimated 400 million full-time jobs, or 14% of working hours, have been lost in the second quarter of 2020.
How The Pandemic Has Affected Female Workers Disproportionately
1) A large percentage of employed women – 40 per cent according to the report – work in sectors such as food, hospitality, real estate, and retail which have been hit particularly hard during the COVID-19 outbreak. 42% of women employed in these sectors work informally, as compared to the 32% of men working within informal employment status. Their informal status means that they are more vulnerable to being laid off as compared to men.
2) ILO estimates that the lockdown has resulted in 55 million domestic workers around the world being at significant risk of losing their means of livelihood. The dominating majority of these at-risk domestic workers are women.
3) Women make up pproximately 70% of workers in the health and social work sector. However, ILO reports that they tend to be employed in roles that pay lesser, and require “low” skills. Thus, their chances of being laid off are higher.
4) The pandemic has also exacerbated the burden of household chores and caregiving on women disproportionately. This has cut down the time women would otherwise invest in their work or in working extra shifts. This raises the chances of their being laid off due to reduction in quality of work and the time put into it
Studies Conducted In India Back ILO’s Reports
Several studies rooted in India have shown data that supports ILO’s report.
The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has reported a 39% fall in employment of women in just April, as compared to 29% for men.
This indicates that four out of every ten working women in India have lost their jobs during the lockdown. The data shows that rural women were hit the hardest.
Shiney Chakraborty, a research analyst at the Institute of Social Studies Trust conducted a study of 176 female workers in informal sectors in Delhi. The study found that an overwhelming majority of the women reported a loss in income. Simultaneously, 66% of the respondents reported a rise in unpaid work at home, and 36% of them reported increased caregiving demands of child and elders. Only a quarter of them reported that they had help from family members in household chores.
All the studies suggest that women have been, and will only continue to be, the primary casualties of the employment crises caused by the pandemic in India. Women’s employment has fallen further, from an already lower base, and recovering from the fall will be difficult.
ILO Has Reported That Progress Made In Gender Equality, And The Future Of Female Employment, Is Being Threatened
The ILO has warned that the pandemic could wipe out the “modest gains” we have achieved in gender equality at work in recent decades.
“In contrast to previous crises, women’s employment is at greater risk than men’s, particularly owing to the impact of the downturn on the service sector,” ILO reported.
Crises in the past have shown that when employment opportunities are scarce, jobs tend to be given to men more than women, and women’s engagement with unpaid care work increases.
“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 ILO report has stated.
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