Impact of pandemic on women’s lives and finances

A good deal of statistics about the impact of COVID on women in India is yet to appear, but the initial signals are that it has left a deep imprint.

August 16, 2020 12:44 IST | India Infoline News Service
It is said that in any epidemic or pandemic in all of history, women have borne the brunt. In the past, it was because women stayed at home and took on all responsibilities of the family. Any pandemic has multiple implications. Firstly, it creates a health hazard and so it has physical, mental, psychological and monetary implications. Secondly, it impacts the ability of the earning members to generate resources. In an average rural or semi-urban household, almost every member contributes to the financial pool. Even a single member getting affected means income gets impacted. Thirdly, there is deterioration of family and social fabric in such cases and the impact is normally subtle. The pressures of all the three situations are eventually borne by women.

Even jobs have exposed more women to COVID

In the last 50 years, more women entered the job market. However, the job ratio has still been skewed. If you take the medical field as representative, the majority of doctors in most regions across the world are male, although females are getting a better representation in developed countries. However, when it comes to nursing, it is predominantly a women’s occupation.

Chart Source: CGDEV.ORG

That is where the problem arises. The ratio of nurses to doctors is fairly high globally and most of the nurses are a lot more exposed to COVID patients. It means that ratio of women exposed to COVID patients is substantially higher than men. When it comes to nurses, the presence of women is a lot more pronounced in developed countries as compared to the developing countries.

Naturally, women are exposed to more COVID infections than men

If you look at fatalities, the vulnerability of women may not be that obvious. But they face longer term threats. The chart below considers data among health workers only for Italy and Spain, the two European nations with the highest fatalities.

Data Source: ILO

The results of the survey are actually quite stark; both in terms of the inequality and the vulnerability of women in the healthcare sector. For example, if you take the global healthcare sector, women account for 70% of health and social care workers. However, women only account for 30% of healthcare leaders. Apart from the inequality, there is also the issue of vulnerability. In just Spain and Italy, over 70% of the healthcare workers who got infected by COVID-19 were women. Clearly, being in the forefront of the anti-COVID battle has made women extremely vulnerable.

Yes, women have had to adapt a lot more due to COVID impact

The next time you hear a lady asking you why she must always adapt, she is not complaining. She is just narrating something that has just been ratified by a survey conducted by KFF. The survey brings out a very stark paradoxin the role played by women. For example, in roles like healthcare, it is the women who are at the forefront and also most vulnerable. However, when it comes to other areas, the women have been hit hard by COVID in multiple ways.

Chart Source: KFF Survey

Clearly, the trend emerging is that COVID has made a lot of women unhappier. While only 40% of the men believe that their lives have been disrupted by COVID, nearly 50% of women admit that their lives have been disrupted inordinately. The reasons are not far to seek. More women have had to give up on regular activities, more women have been forced to stay at home and more women have had to cancel business engagements and travel plans as a result of COVID.

Impact of COVID on women may be a lot more serious

A good deal of statistics about the impact of COVID on women in India is yet to appear, but the initial signals are that it has left a deep imprint. In urban areas, nuclear familiesrequire that women have to support the family monetarily as well as be at home to take care of the sick. The good thing is that if WFH takes off, then the opportunities could multiply for women, but that could be some time away.

In India, women’s participation in the labour market is often in the form of temporary jobs. Even globally, women represent less than 40% of total employment but make up 57% of those working part-time. It is feared that in rural India, women’s burden on farms may go up in regions where there is shortage of labour due to reduced flow of migrant labourers. Let us now look at the global net negative impact.

Chart Source: KFF Survey

Clearly, more women are impacted by COVID-19 and more women have seen a net negative impact. The impact on young girls missing school could be the next big challenge. For now, it is clearly the women across the world bearing the cross of COVID-19.

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