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Women are more likely to sacrifice their careers for unpaid care and domestic work due to the pandemic.

Women increase unpaid workload during the pandemic. Photo by Kamaji Ogino from Pexels

The Coronavirus pandemic could set back gender equality efforts by 25 years, suggests data from UN Women. 

UN Women collated data from 47 countries revealing that whilst both men and women have increased their unpaid workloads since the start of the pandemic, women are taking the bulk of the burden. 

The impact of global lockdown restrictions and stay at home measures have resulted in an increased need for care for relatives and higher domestic chores. 

Before the Coronavirus pandemic, women spent approximately three times more hours than men on unpaid domestic work and care work. 

Across the 47 countries surveyed, 60 per cent of women reported that their time spent on unpaid domestic work had increased. As well as a higher percentage of daughters to sons helping with chores in the home.

This increased burden has had a detrimental knock-on effect on the female workforce. As families make tough decisions on who keeps their paid work and who leaves to provide unpaid care at home, women – who are often paid less – are more likely to sacrifice their careers.

A labour market data analysis revealed that at the end of Q2 2020, 321 million women had left the workforce compared to 182 million men. In Latin America, there were 2.1 times as many women as men outside the labour force than the global average of 1.7 times.

16.4 billion hours of unpaid care work are spent every day. This equates to 2 billion people working 8 hours per day without pay. 

The value of this work is equivalent to 9 per cent of global GDP. Despite this, only 8 per cent of COVID-19 social protection and labour market measures have addressed unpaid care during the pandemic.

This economic fall out is expected to push 13 per cent of the world’s women and girls into extreme poverty—an equivalent of 469 million people.

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Since the late 1990s, women and girls living in poverty has slowly decreased each year. Between 2019 and 2021, declining poverty was estimated to continue at 2.7%. However, due to the pandemic, new poverty forecasts indicate a rise of 9.1%. 

Women in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia remain the worst affected, accounting for 87 per cent of the world’s women and girls living in extreme poverty.

The pandemic has highlighted that traditional gender roles still play a significant part in daily lives worldwide. The unpaid work undertaken predominantly by women and girls needs to be recognised and supported through policy changes throughout the world. 

Without such changes, the long-lasting impact on women’s economic empowerment will reverse decades of progress towards equality. 

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