Friday

20th May 2022

Women hit 'disproportionately' hard by Covid-19, report finds

  • Despite their overrepresentation in healthcare services, women have been under-represented in the pandemic decision-making processes (Photo: Hospital Clínic)

The pandemic has proven to be a major challenge for gender-equality across Europe, with domestic violence and existing inequalities exacerbated, a new report has found.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women's lives," according to the study published by the European Commission on Friday (5 March).

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"There is already ample evidence that the hard-won achievements of past years have been 'rolled back'," it also says, warning that it could take years, or even decades, to overcome "the setbacks to gender equality" caused by this crisis.

"This shows that progress on women's rights is hard-won but easily lost," it adds.

In the EU, women represent 76 percent of healthcare and social care workers and 86 percent of personal care workers in health services - a sector that has an unprecedented rise in workload and health risks exposure due to the outbreaks.

Despite their overrepresentation in healthcare services, women have been under-represented in the pandemic decision-making processes.

Only one-third of health ministers in the EU are women, while female experts only account for just two of the nine members (25 percent) of the European Commission advisory panel on Covid-19.

The report also pointed out that women make up most workers in sectors that are worst affected by the crisis, such as retail, accommodation, hospitality, residential care and domestic work - jobs that cannot be done remotely.

Employment for females was reduced by 2.2 million across the EU during the first wave of the pandemic.

"In contrast, service sectors that were not as disrupted due to the nature of their activity, such as information and communication, finance and insurance, primarily employing men, saw an increase in employment rates," the report said.

Additionally, employment trends from last summer show that women gained only half as many jobs as men.

The study warns that lasting effects of the economic impact of the pandemic could lead to lower pensions for women, widening the gender pension gap and other gender inequalities "for decades to come".

Moreover, women's unpaid work also increased during lockdowns. Women spent, on average, 62 hours per week caring for children (compared to 36 hours for men) and 23 hours per week doing housework (15 hours for men). The burden was even higher for single parents.

The report warns that "these patterns have reinforced traditional gender roles".

Domestic violence up

Meanwhile, domestic violence spiked during the spring of 2020 across Europe. For instance, reports of domestic violence in France increased by 32 percent during the first week of the lockdown, in Lithuania by 20 percent in the first three weeks.

Social isolation under the current crisis not only increases the risk of domestic abuse, but also hinders access to assistance and protection services.

That is why the commission urged member states, in April 2020, to address the needs of disadvantaged groups, such as domestic violence victims, in their emergency responses to the pandemic.

However, a separate study from the European Institute for Gender Equality found that only 11 EU countries introduced national policies or action plans that address challenges related to intimate partner violence in the context of the pandemic.

Only Ireland, Spain and Lithuania have national plans that focused concretely on partner violence in the pandemic.

Moreover, eight EU countries classified support services for victims of partner violence as "essential" to ensure their continuity.

Later this year, the commission is expected to present a new proposal to combat gender-based violence in the EU.

Coronavirus exposes increase in violence targeting women

Coronavirus lockdowns have triggered a spike in domestic, sexual and gender-based violence across Europe. However, experts stressed that the end of lockdowns will bring additional challenges, such as economic uncertainty or job losses, which can lead to more abuse.

Gender equality still 60 years away, warns study

A new report on gender equality in the EU makes it clear: improved gender equality in decision-making is the main driver of progress in the EU. And most progress so far is due to outliers Sweden, Denmark and France.

Women hit hardest by corona economic crisis

While women are in the frontline on fighting the pandemic, they are also exposed more to the economic crisis that will follow. The pay gap could also grow. More security for flexible jobs, and investment in care work, could help.

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