Last month, the World Economic Forum released their “Global Gender Gap Report.”
“We hope that this report will serve as a call to action to leaders to embed gender parity as a central goal of our policies and practices to manage the post-pandemic recovery, to the benefit of our economies and our societies,” wrote Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director and Head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society.
Chapter 2 of the report is dedicated to analyzing the “Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Economic Gender Gaps,” using “high-frequency data from the International Labour Organization (ILO), the LinkedIn Economic Graph team and Ipsos to offer a timely analysis of the impact of the pandemic on existing gender gaps in economic participation.”
“The evidence shows that while both men and women were severely affected by the pandemic, women experienced a larger impact through multiple channels,” the World Economic Forum reported. “First, as women are frequently employed in sectors directly disrupted by lockdown and social distancing measures, they consequently experienced both higher unemployment rates and a more subdued re-entry into employment.”
“Second,” they continued, “women’s labour force participation dropped further than that of men at the start of the pandemic.”
“Third,” they concluded, “women’s re-employment has been slower, with lower hiring rates and delayed hiring into leadership roles.”
The report then added that “there is also evidence that among those women who have continued to work throughout the pandemic, some have reduced their working hours more than men and some have pulled back from promotions and leadership roles.”
Throughout the chapter, several insightful statistics were provided which demonstrate the apparently disproportionate negative impact of COVID-19 policies on women. Here are some of the key findings:
Between 2019 and 2020, the change in unemployment was mostly indistinguishable by gender for some countries (such as the United Kingdom, Japan and Italy). In the United States, women experienced a far greater change in unemployment than men. This was also the case — to a lesser extent — in Canada.
Change in hours based on sector
In Figure 2.5, the World Economic Forum analyzed the change in hours worked between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020, categorized by sector and the share of women employed within each sector. Women make up the majority of two sectors: “healthcare and social assistance” (75%) and “education” (65.4%). These sectors experienced a negative change in hours of 8.8% and 6.5% respectively.
Two sectors have an approximately equal split between male and female employees. “Accommodation and food services” is 48.8% female, and experienced a negative change of 10.8% in hours worked, while “culture and entertainment” is 48.1% female, and experienced a negative change of 7.6% in hours worked.
The sector which experienced the largest change in hours worked between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020 was “transportation” with 17.7%, of which 16.5% of employees are female.
In April and May 2020, when COVID-19 restrictions were broadly imposed, the “share of women being hired into all roles dropped by 2.3 percentage points for entry-level workers, 0.9 percentage points for experienced workers and 0.5 percentage points for those in leadership positions.”
The largest decrease was seen in the nonprofit industry, followed by the “consumer industry” cluster of “retail, consumer goods, and recreation and travel.”
In a section titled “The Double Shift in The Pandemic Era,” the report includes the results of various surveys, categorized by gender and childcare responsibilities.
Regarding work challenges, a majority of men and women surveyed reported “increased anxiety around job security,” with “women: kids in household” the most likely to experience this concern, then “men: kids in household,” then “women: no kids in household,” and finally “men: no kids in household.”
The same is broadly true of “stress due to changes in work routines and organization,” with the majority of all but “men: no kids in household” experiencing such a challenge.
However, several other challenges demonstrated a vast disparity, both between men and women and those with children and those without, when it comes to COVID-19. Most notably, “stress due to family pressures (e.g. childcare)” was experienced by over 60% of women with children in the household. A majority of women with children in the household also reported experiencing “reduced productivity,” “difficulty finding a work-life balance,” “difficulty getting work done at home due to inadequate home office setup or equipment,” and “working at unconventional hours (e.g. very early in the morning or late at night).
“Across economies, pre-existing gender gaps have exacerbated the asymmetric effect of the pandemic, in terms of employment and labour force participation. By industry, we have seen a widening of gender gaps in some of the sectors most heavily impacted by COVID-19, and a more pronounced emerging gender gap demonstrated by a reversal of gender parity in leadership positions,” concluded the World Economic Forum.
“By disrupting childcare support for families, the pandemic has had a significant impact on the lives of working parents. In the current context, this impact has been most acutely felt by working women with children who commonly continue to take on a larger share of care work in the household,” the Forum added.
While the claim that “The pandemic has re-emphasized the need for resilient and sustainable childcare systems” is certainly a subject of debate, the data makes one point clear — that COVID-19 policies have disproportionately affected women, and particularly those who have added childcare responsibilities.
While it may not be the responsibility of the state to provide support for those who decide to have children, it is certainly the responsibility of the state not to impose policies which have an immediate and long-lasting impact on many in our society — and in particular, those they claim to fight to protect.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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