There’s no denying the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has made its mark on all of us in some way, and created devastating economic damage worldwide. But not everyone has been affected equally…
A report by UN Women has found clear evidence that, although both genders have seen their unpaid workloads increase, women are bearing more of the burden than men. Not only that, but women are losing their jobs at greater speed too.
Even before the pandemic, women were spending on average three times as many hours as men on domestic chores, childcare and looking after vulnerable or elderly loved ones, according to the World Economic Forum.
The average woman now spends nearly the equivalent of a full-time job doing unpaid childcare – a full working day a week more than the average man. – “Whose time to care?”, UN Women
Over the past 16 months, school closures, widespread restrictions, business disruption, caring for those who become sick, and a huge rise in working from home have all contributed to making previously simple tasks much more time-consuming and arduous.
As a result, many women have been forced to increase their total working hours (paid and unpaid combined) to unsustainable levels, reduce their paid working hours, or leave paid employment altogether. According to data from 55 high- and middle- income countries at the end of Q2 2020, there were 1.7 times as many women as men outside the labour force. Read this study from the UN Women on the impact of COVID-19 on the female labour force for more detailed information.
This represents a serious threat to the economic status of huge numbers of women. The pandemic has reaffirmed the persistence of gender bias in social and cultural norms. We are in danger of reversing crucial advancements made in gender equality at work in recent years.
What can we do?
As a society, we need to recognise the damage that has been done to gender equality by the Covid-19 pandemic and prioritise restoring balance during the recovery period. There have been many lessons learned that need to be remembered as we move forward.
The first step should be to strive for the achievement of equal pay for work of equal value as a driver of sustainable, inclusive recovery. Universal equal pay could remove many of the economic obstacles preventing men from contributing more to home and childcare responsibilities, creating a more even gender balance at work and at home.
The following actions have been recommended by Valeria Esquivel, Senior Employment Policies and Gender Officer at the International Labour Organization:
- Prevent women from losing their jobs by implementing policies that keep them in work, as women have a harder time than men in getting back to paid work once crises have passed. By compensating for wage losses caused by the temporary reduction in working hours or the suspension of work, these policies can help maintain women workers in their jobs, and safeguard their skills.
- Help women find new jobs if they’ve lost them. Public Employment Services that connect jobseekers with employers can help women find jobs in essential production and services. At the local level, they can speed up job placement in sectors that are recruiting amidst the pandemic
- Avoid cutting subsidies. Expenditure cuts in public services have a disproportionate effect on women and children. That’s why it’s so important to avoid cuts in health and education budgets, wages and pensions. Past crises have shown that when support for employment and social protection are at the core of stimulus packages, they help stabilise household incomes and lead to a speedier recovery.
- Invest in care. Care services have the potential to generate decent jobs, particularly for women. This crisis has highlighted the often difficult and undervalued work of care workers, whose contribution has been, and remains, essential to overcoming the pandemic. Improving their working conditions will have a significant impact on many women workers, given the large numbers who work in the care sector.
- Promote employment policies that focus on women. Governments need to pro-actively counterbalance the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on women. From a broader perspective, macroeconomic stimulus packages must continue to support and create jobs for women. Policies should focus on hard-hit sectors that employ large numbers of women, along with measures that help close women’s skill gaps and contribute to removing practical barriers to entry.
The EQUAL-SALARY certification is a process that allows companies to verify and communicate that they pay their female and male employees equally for the same job or for a job of the same value.
It’s a chance for organisations to put their values into action. To prove their commitment to equal pay for all.
If you want to get EQUAL-SALARY certified, join the cause, become an ambassador or would just like to learn more, please get in touch.