It’s been over a year since the first cases of COVID-19 appeared in Europe, resulting in several national and regional lockdowns and thus shrinking economies, increasing unemployment rate, reducing working hours, causing massive job losses, and more. Some say that the pandemic and the crisis that follows will increase poverty and inequalities, but we are already seeing the wide-ranging effects of the pandemic today. In this article, we are going to take a look at the impact of COVID-19 crisis on young people, especially women, as the impacts of crises are unfortunately rarely gender-neutral.
Women are among those at greatest risk of joblessness and poverty. That is because they generally have unskilled and less secure jobs than men, and they usually work in industries that are most affected by the COVID-19 crisis – tourism, restaurants (1) and retail, but also as a health workers. The vast majority of health workers in European Union are women – 78% (2), which means that they make up the majority of COVID frontline workers. In general, the sectors that have been most affected by social distancing, restrictive measures, business shutdowns, in which workers are exposed to direct contact with the customers, such as tourism, retail, hospitality and aviation are also numerically dominated by women (they account for 61% workers doing these jobs)(3).
Transferring to remote work led in many cases to deterioration of work-life balance and deepening inequalities at home. Having to combine care for children or relatives with remote work during lockdowns only increased job insecurity for women. The Eurofunds report on women and labour market equality states that family responsibilities prevented more females (24%) than males (13%) from giving the time they wanted to their job. Traditional gender norms and stereotypes that still exist in many European countries to a different extent, along with the inequalities in many households, can play a big role in preserving stereotypical gender roles for both men and women.
Furthermore, young women are most likely to lose their job during the pandemic (11% compared to 9% of young men) (4) and to drop out of the labour market. More than 30% of women in the European Union work part-time and carry out work in the informal economy which tend to have less fundamental benefits. Detachment from the labour market caused by career disruptions or larger share of household responsibilities can increase women’s underrepresentation on labour market.
Moreover, the disruptions in education, household situation, social isolation, stress and uncertainty about the future impact the emotional development of youth affect the mental well being, which is at the lower level for young women (5). These factors may as well interrupt successful school-to-work transition and have a negative impact on their future.
Boosting female and youth labour-force equal participation, as well as closing gender gaps and raising awareness on gender equality requires policy support and needs to be addressed with urgency. But it is also essential to improve data collection on women and girls to make them visible and to monitor and evaluate gender equality policies. It could be a big opportunity to build back better from COVID-19 crisis, which now creates more and more challenges for the provision of equal rights and opportunities to men and women.
- OECD, Covid-19 is causing activity to collapse and unemployment to soar
- EUROSTAT, Majority of health jobs held by women
- Eurofound (2020), Women and labour market equality: Has COVID-19 rolled back recent gains?, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, p.4
- Eurofound (2020), Women and labour market equality: Has COVID-19 rolled back recent gains?, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, p. 4.
- International Labour Organization (2020), Youth and COVID-19. Impacts on jobs, education, rights and mental well-being, p. 29
Eurofund (2020), Women and labour market equality: Has COVID-19 rolled back recent gains?, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, download: https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/sites/default/files/ef_publication/field_ef_document/ef20068en.pdf
EUROSTAT, Majority of health jobs held by women, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-eurostat-news/-/DDN-20200409-2
International Labour Organization (2020), Youth and COVID-19. Impacts on jobs, education, rights and mental well-being, download: https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_emp/documents/publication/wcms_753026.pdf
OECD, Covid-19 is causing activity to collapse and unemployment to soar, http://www.oecd.org/employment-outlook/2020/
Blasko, Z., Papadimitriou, E. and Manca, A.R., How will the COVID-19 crisis affect existing gender divides in Europe, EUR 30181 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2020, download: https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/how-will-covid-19-crisis-affect-existing-gender-divides-europe
Understanding Covid-19’s impact on women (infographics): https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20210225STO98702/understanding-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-women-infographics