Covid-19 and gender inequality in labour force
According to UN Women report, 2020 shows that Covid-19 profoundly affected the income level, time spend at workplace and the disruption in work pattern for both men and women. Closure of educational institutions, offices and shutting down almost all the important outside works played a pivotal role in determining the gendered engagement in paid and unpaid work, globally including Bangladesh. Women from feminized sectors such as agriculture, garments are at the hardest hit by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. The report, which has analysis of 104 countries, reveals those 70% women in health and social sectors and 50% of unpaid care have fallen upon to the misfortune category.
One of the reasons is the sectors and types of work women engaged in have been particularly hit hard by the pandemic. For example, the hospitality, restaurant, retail, garments and tailoring, online business, health care sectors are informal sector and that are mostly occupied by women. In Asia and the Pacific lost an average of 22% of their income.
Globally, women constitute around 70% of the health sector--front line health professionals, doctors, physiotherapists, dentists, nurses, teachers and cleaners, domestic workers, garments workers, and seasonal labourers. Frontline health workers occupied about 90.5% of Bangladeshi nursing professionals. According to the (ILO) research findings, approximately 80 per cent of the garment sector workforce which are mostly women, bearing the brunt of many of the impacts of the C-19 pandemic.
Women's employment in various sectors has enabled them to improve their skills. Their contribution has influence in household spending and decision-making. However, women face more layoffs and reduced incomes etc than their male counterparts which foster gender inequality amid this pandemic. Women are often caregivers at their homes, communities, and health facilities, which put them at risk of infecting covid-19 and aforementioned problems.
Moreover, women have less economic parity with men for many underlying socio-cultural contexts. My solo academic research, conducted on 357 working women reveals that the income earners suffered much during the lockdown period, but there is a foresight of flourishing e-commerce by their hands at the same time. The confined condition in many families strengthened the family bondage if there were existing solvency. The reversed condition was noticed and informed, if they were dwelling with an abusive partner and who were combating with poverty during the Covid-19, those women are subjected to mental stresses. Furthermore, there is no nationwide granular information about the number of job losses of Bangladeshi working women, as a number of women engage in part-time of informal service sectors.
These industries have limited access to social protection, the women are viable to dismissal or paid sick leave. The woman bears the responsibility of preparing meals, house cleaning, household maintenance, washing clothes, fetching water, gathering wood, taking care of children, and the elderly people. In urban areas, due to the very presence of nuclear families, women are being expected to support the family and confined to home. The demand for women's time expenditure both within and outside the household may rise in rural Bangladesh, the net effect on women's support will be shaped by relative net benefits of time at home and outside. Countrywide labour shortages during the Boro harvesting cycle during Covid-19 was filled up by a female member of the family. After harvesting, women often conduct all postharvest tasks as unpaid family labour in rural areas. Women who already lost their livelihoods will find it tougher to find new jobs alike the previous one. Educational institutes are running through online, thus the responsibility to look after is disproportionately falls on mothers.
Women who were surviving by precarious informal sector are most vulnerable financially during the pandemic. In developing countries, the burden on the health care system intensified unplanned and unwanted pregnancies which have an adverse effect on maternal health also. Spreading valid information about Covid-19 updates and self-protection measures should be formed by both male and female leadership.
Bangladesh government has started mass covd-19 inoculation to the eligible persons from 7 February. People should welcome the safeguard and contribute to helping further gender equality. During a catastrophic outbreak, in determining gendered lens responsive resilience policy makers should account for the adaptive ways that women and men may encounter the effects of the coronavirus at work, at hom and in their communities.
The writer is a Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Varendra University, Rajshahi