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The Shecession: How Covid has Disproportionately Impacted Women

  • August 11, 2021
 

You may have heard times like ‘shecession’ floating around in recent times, but what does this really entail?

Unlike the typical recession where men tend to face the biggest financial hits, this time it is the opposite. Globally, women have lost 1.8 times more jobs as men, making up 39% of global employment but accounting for 54% of global job losses. This statistic shows a clearly uneven scale of job losses per gender.

Women have consequently have had a much harder time with the pandemic than men. They are more likely to have lost their job and more likely to be working in a lesser paid sector, showing very little hope for them from the pandemic.

 

The next question then is why?

Typically the differences may be put down to two reasons, one being that service jobs have taken a massive hit over lockdown and another being due to school closures and women taking the bulk of childcare duties.

With the country going into complete lockdown, preventing anyone other than key workers from physically going into work, so many people could not physically do their jobs. This meant that a lot of industries which were dominated by women (like beauty and hairdressing having 94% and 83% of workers being female) were no longer able to function for months. This clearly had a massive toll on the female population as suddenly so many women were no longer able to do their jobs and were unable to earn their typical monthly wages.

The lockdown also meant schools across the country were closing until the summer to protect the students, with the majority of children being unable to attend school any more. Due to the general differences in parental care between men and women (men claiming to take on 5 hours in a workday on childcare and women claiming 7 hours according to studies by King’s College London), women have less time outside of their childcare duties to dedicate to their careers etc.

From the first to second lockdowns, the schooling between parents shifted a lot. The share of educating children from home in the first lockdown was about a 50/50 split, but women ultimately spent more time washing, feeding and dressing their children than men. Then by the time of the second lockdown, 67% of women and 52% of men were actively teaching their children, according to findings by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This would then

further add to the strain on women in the country as a shift in parenting had emerged and women consequently had less time than men since they were taking on more parental duties than the men did.

 

 

Women’s Mental Health

On top of the financial pressure women faced, their mental health seemed to take a major blow too.

A study by King’s College London has found that since the pandemic began, 37% of women vs 25% of men say they find coronavirus stressful. On top of this, 53% of women have felt more anxious and depressed, compared with 43% of men. And finally, women (72%) are more likely than men (61%) to disagree that ‘too much fuss is being made about the risk of coronavirus’.

There was also more of a negative mental impact on women in regards to homeschooling their children too. ONS found that of the parents who were homeschooling their children, one in three women (34%) were experiencing a decline in their mental well-being as opposed to one in five men (20%).

This toll on their mental health cannot be helped by the pressures put upon them by their jobs changing and the amount of time spent educating their children.

 

This then leads onto a bigger debate, should men be offering up their time to take on more of a domestic role?

This is a difficult topic to breach and feels very cyclical, it also heavily revolves around heterosexual couples. There is no definite yes or no, just what works best for each individual family.

In the average family with a mum, dad and their children, the man would be earning more than the woman. To ask for the man to give up his job/reduce his hours to dedicate more time to childcare may not be financially viable for the family (unless the wage difference is not big enough to make them worry). So, it may not be possible for the man to take on the domestic duties so the woman can pursue her career.

In a 2020 study by Fatherhood Institute, it was found that men’s working hours dropped by around 11% (1 hour 37 minutes) including travel time over lockdown. If men kept Working

From Home they could feasibly keep their pay, hours and dedication, but also offer an extra hour and a half for their partner in order to let them keep more work hours. This therefore seems like a much more feasible way for men to help share the childcare responsibilities.

During lockdown men did work 36% more paid hours than women, however, this was a considerably smaller amount than the 50% difference in 2015. It could be down to this intense difference in work hours that led men to;

  • be 2 times more likely to be denied flexible working than women;
  •  have a bigger fear of requesting Part Time in case of damaging their career;
  •  be more judged by managers as less committed when asking for Part Time work than they would to women asking for the same thing

In a Fathers Network Scottish survey, it was found that 60% of dads said that lockdown had positively impacted their relationship with their children. And, as a result, 56% wanted to change the way that they parent in the future. The findings also showed that 40% of dads spent 25 hours or more homeschooling their children.

These findings suggest that, although lockdown put a lot of stress on individuals, men gained a lot from being closer to their children.

So the combination of these findings and the extra 1 hour 37 minutes from the Fatherhood Institute study, could be a great solution to the issues with the ‘shecession’ as it would constantly alleviate some of the domestic workload from women without jeopardising either of the couple’s careers.

Hopefully now that things are getting back to normal again, women will be able to regain the financial stability they had pre-pandemic. Jobs in the service sector are now being able to open as usual. However, it is important to not let all of these findings go forgotten when we do get back to the way that things were. A more balanced sense of parenting can really benefit both women and men, allowing more time for women and a closer relationship between men and their children.

 

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