Last updated: 30 March 2020
It was evident early in the pandemic that COVID-19’s impact on the population would be gendered. From vertical and horizontal segregation in the labour market to the profile of public transport users, almost all aspects of this public health emergency are impacted by gender or have the potential to affect men and women in different ways.
Engender, a women’s organisation Scotland, has published a comprehensive account of the gendered impacts of COVID-19 on the lives on women and girls. The briefing highlights how the closure of nurseries and schools will mean that the bulk of caring responsibilities will fall upon women, who may need to juggle this responsibility alongside part or full-time employment. Engender presents data from the United Nations on women in heterosexual relationship that estimates they ‘do 2.6 times as much unpaid caregiving and domestic work as their heterosexual partners’. This issue is further compounded for lone parents, of whom 90% are women.
The briefing also identifies how the restriction of civil liberties and requirement to stay at home will negatively impact women. The UK Government’s mantra ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’ is clear and convincing. Yet it ignores those for whom staying at home puts their life at risk. For women who experience domestic abuse, the requirement to self-isolate with partners and family member who are violent and abusive will likely create increased anxiety. Scottish Women’s Aid have published guidance for people who face this situation and run a helpline, email service and web chat for everyone with concerns about domestic abuse.
Other documented inequalities include:
- There is evidence to suggest that men are more likely to die from COVID-19 than women, this may relate to differences in biological characteristics and/or gendered practices (for example, in many countries men are more likely to smoke).
- Women are more likely to work in jobs that expose them to COVID-19, including front-line roles in nursing, social care and teaching.