We are all under the same storm, but not in the same boat. This assertion is commonly used to illustrate how the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened inequalities. Based on the 2020 labor market surveys, a recent blog post looks into the employment gaps between men and women. It highlights not only the magnitude of the drop in employment figures but also the speed of recovery – both to the detriment of women.
Why has the pandemic hit women’s employment so hard? Last month, Colombia’s national statistics department, DANE, published an analysis of the changes in female work in that country that may allow us to understand better the changes that have occurred. This analysis focuses on female employment in the paid caretaking sector before and after the pandemic.
The report proposes a broad classification of paid employment in the care sector. It includes workers who provide services directly (such as caregivers of children, personal assistants for adults, and health personnel). But it also considers the indirect providers (in charge of housework) and other workers whose service contributes to self-care (such as hairdressers).
The results are shocking:
- Between the second quarter of 2019 and the same period in 2020, 2.5 million women in Colombia lost their jobs, a 27% reduction (compared to 18% for men.)
- In 2019, 16% of employed people worked in the paid care sector employed (78% of them, women).
- 30% of employed women worked in this sector versus 6% of employed men.
- Due to the pandemic, 975 thousand female jobs in the care sector were lost in Colombia (versus 184 thousand male jobs).
In other words, this information confirms that female employment has suffered a two-way blow. On the one hand, the pandemic, confinement measures, and social distance restrictions strongly hit activities that mainly employ women. On the other, paid care services have mostly been temporarily or permanently suspended. With these services no longer being offered in the market, households that use them have had to replace them by allocating their own time to these activities. Given that care tasks fall disproportionately on women, it is very likely that in this reassignment within the household, a large number of women had to leave their jobs to take on care activities at home (childcare, virtual education accompaniment, housework, assistance to the elderly, among others).
This is the reality of the region’s labor market at the gates of 2021: we are at risk of losing the advances in female labor participation and closing gender gaps achieved in many decades. Thus, responses to the COVID-19 crisis cannot be one size fits all. On the contrary, they must put the magnifying glass on the risk that the deepening of the gender gap in employment will become permanent. They must focus on measures to protect the income of those self-employed, the jobs of those in a dependent relationship, and generate new jobs for women whose employers have had to close their businesses permanently.
What other solutions are you implementing in your community? Tell us in the comments section of this post or on Twitter at @BID_Igualdad.