‘Women are hit hard by economic fallout of COVID-19’

They are more vulnerable because of the existing gender inequalities, says report

October 12, 2020 01:14 am | Updated 01:14 am IST - Bengaluru

A file photo of women employees entering a garment factory in Bengaluru.

A file photo of women employees entering a garment factory in Bengaluru.

Women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, especially those who are part of the workforce. Women employees and entrepreneurs continue to suffer the impact of layoffs and business losses to a greater extent than men.

As per a recent analysis by McKinsey Global Institute, women are more vulnerable to COVID-19-related economic effects because of the already existing gender inequalities. The magnitude of inequality is striking. Using data and trends from unemployment surveys in the United States and India where gender-disaggregated data is available, the study estimates that female job loss rates owing to COVID-19 are about 1.8 times higher than the male job loss rates globally, at 5.7% versus 3.1%, respectively.

Dip in sales revenues

Confirming the trend, Ipshita Sen, founder of the NGO Engendered, which helps women in their mid-careers, said studies in India show that four out of every 10 working women have lost their jobs post the lockdown. Similarly, 90% of the women entrepreneurs have reported a significant decrease in their sales revenues.

Women entrepreneurs are relatively more vulnerable in this situation as they tend to operate mostly in sectors such as food, arts, recreation, and retail which are the worst-affected by the pandemic. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage economies, lives, and livelihoods, it is already apparent that there is a greater negative impact on women and the progress towards gender parity,” said Ms. Sen.

The second calendar quarter (April to June 2020) employment numbers in India indicate that the number of women who lost jobs was higher, as a percentage, than that of their male counterparts. As per the McKinsey report, women make up 39% of global employment, but account for 54% of the overall job losses, indicating a skewed gender scenario which could be true around the globe.

Such inequality, intuitively, has always been there against women at workplaces and elsewhere. But, the pandemic has brought the magnitude of it to the forefront, said Nirmala Menon, CEO and founder of Interweave, a firm that offers consulting on diversity and inclusion issues.

“The pandemic has brought the gender inequality issue up closer and it has triggered angst and anger. It is becoming a subject of discussion on various channels and social media is keeping the pressure up. Therefore, employee organisations are forced to be fair and sensitive while handling career issues of their women employees,” added Ms. Menon.

Across all professions

B.S. Murthy, CEO of Leadership Capital, a mentoring and CXO hiring firm, said women professionals and women entrepreneurs in Bengaluru are not insulated from the economic impact of the pandemic. “It is true that more women are losing jobs in the organised sector than men. So, it’s obvious that women, by all means, are more affected by the pandemic. It is true everywhere and so also is the case with our city.”

Women across all professions — ranging from fashion designers and those in the catering services to artistes, dancers, and hairdressers — are under pressure. “What about cleaning staff at our over 500 marriage halls, teachers, and ayahs at over 1,000 playschools in our city or housekeeping staff of several of our corporates? Invariably all these jobs are dominated by women and most of these jobs are lost,” added Mr. Murthy.

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