Stock

: In contrast to earlier downturns, girls are bearing the brunt of the COVID recession – right here's why

Not only in the US – worldwide, the recession caused by pandemics has had a disproportionately negative impact on women's employment.

Previous recessions suggest that men would have borne the brunt of this recession, according to a new study published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

"
Mothers saw a greater drop in productivity while working and caring for children.

In the US, female employment increased compared to men during the Great Recession, according to a report by five economists, three of whom are from the University of Mannheim in Germany. The other two economists are from the University of California at San Diego and Northwestern University.

In the current recession, women have not only lost the largest proportion of jobs in 18 out of 28 advanced economies, but they are also being re-employed much more slowly than men.

This is based on data compiled by the researchers from the European Labor Force Survey, the latest US Population Survey and the Canadian Labor Force Survey.

And "in the few countries where the pandemic has had a greater impact on men, the relative impact on women's labor markets is usually more severe than expected from previous recessions," the researchers wrote.

Previous research supports this. In states with Early Shutdown Orders, mothers took one of two routes, neither of which were ideal: they took temporary time off to look after children, or they worked more hours on nights and weekends while balancing household chores, one Study published last year by Misty Heggeness, Chief Economist of the US Census Bureau, and Jason Fields, Senior Researcher, found.

What makes the COVID recession different?

So what's up? For starters, past recessions like the Great Recession haven't stopped children from attending schools or daycare.

When children around the world were forced to learn from a distance, mothers – whether employed or unemployed – spent more time helping their children learn.

"
Female-dominated industries such as hospitality, food and tourism were hardest hit during the pandemic.

This has limited the ability of women to work more than men. In fact, the decline in employment among American women with children was five percentage points higher than that of men two months after the recession began.

Additionally, female-dominated industries such as hospitality, food and tourism were hardest hit during the pandemic – resulting in the highest rates of layoffs and vacations.

Another notable finding is the central role of teleworking.

Much of the "gender gaps in the employment impact of the pandemic occur almost exclusively among workers unable to work from home," the researchers wrote.

It turns out that in the 28 countries the researchers analyzed, a greater proportion of men have jobs that can be done remotely compared to women.

"
A greater proportion of men in the 28 countries analyzed by the researchers have jobs that can be done remotely compared to women.

But even if a woman with children was able to work from home, the research suggests that "mothers experienced a greater decline in productivity while doing work and childcare".

About half of parents (52%) with children under the age of 12 said taking responsibility for childcare during the coronavirus pandemic was challenging, according to a survey published in January by the Pew Research Center.

Ultimately, the decline in women's employment is significant, especially if it continues because it reduces the financial security that families will have against future economic shocks.

Even so, researchers are optimistic that the pandemic "could bring about changes in the post-pandemic workplace that open up the potential for greatly reduced gender inequality in the labor market".

"However, changes in the workplace are not enough to realize this potential," says the company, referring to the permanent flexibility of working from home. "There must also be a shift in social norms and expectations that induce mothers and fathers to make more equal use of the additional flexibility that the new job offers."

Related Articles