Gender gap and inequalities in coronavirus times

Coral del Río Otero, Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Vigo, researcher at the ECOSOT group and member of ECOBAS, considers that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause setbacks for women and aggravate the gender gap if administrations do not intervene.

“Women are losing again”

It is still early to make assessments and to know the effects that the crisis caused by the expansion of the COVID-19 will have on the population and the economy. In any case, the researcher Coral del Río states that it is already possible to identify some notable differences in the impact of the crisis on men and women. ” Both groups do not occupy similar positions in public and private spaces, which explains why they are not being equally affected, especially due to the greater presence of women in precarious jobs and their greater burden in care and domestic work”.

The most precarious contracts are in the hands of women

“Some of the sectors most seriously affected by job losses due to the health crisis have a strong female presence (for example, the tourism sector, retail trade or child care and dependency services), leaving a significant proportion of its workers without resources and financial cushion because of their low wages, “explains the researcher. “We should remember that in service sector jobs the most precarious contracts are mostly in the hands of women. Other more masculinised sectors such as construction, industry or freight transport are likely to be less affected. Women are also majority in the informal economy, which makes it difficult for them to benefit from the palliative measures put in place by the central government (such as the ERTE). Taking on account all domestic employment, where a major proportion of female workers are not registered with social security and are immigrant women (with a smaller family support network). How employment develops in these sectors in the future remains to be seen, but unlike previous economic crises, these strongly feminized sectors are already seriously affected at this early stage”.

Sexual division of labour does not seem to be reduced by the pandemic

The professor considers that the generalized lockdown that we live for several weeks, with the closure of educational centers and the expansion of telecommuting, it was a very interesting natural experiment in assessing the strength of progress in home co-responsibility between men and women. “There was some expectation as to whether the presence of men in caregiving tasks would be accentuated. However, early studies show that the sexual division of labour does not seem to decrease, at least significantly. The increase in men’s involvement does not seem to be enough to offset the greater increase in women’s time devoted to these tasks, especially in households with minors, according to several international studies. In our country, the first estimates of Lida Farré and Liberdade González confirm that women continued to assume more weight in housework during lockdown, even in families in which the father and mother maintained employment ( In the case of purchasing-related tasks alone, there have been more households in which men were primarily responsible, 38 per cent, compared with 28 per cent in which women were mainly responsible and 33 per cent in which these tasks were equally shared. The cleaning, clothing, food and education of minors remained primarily a female responsibility. And all this has a health cost for them. According to the first results of a work developed by Cristina Benlloch, Empar Augado and Anna Augado, it seems that it was the women with minors who telecommuting who endured, to a greater extent, the tension of lockdown, especially since they were the ones who carried out the school monitoring of the children.”

“The step backwards for women’s rights is now a real danger”

The professor also explains that telecommuting is used as a tool to solve caregiving tasks, given the lack of public services, or conciliation measures for “families”. Such as the proposal for a home-based care allowance, which is obviously designed to be taken by women, and which condemns them to precariousness, economic dependence and, in many cases, poverty. These are some examples of how in times of crisis the women labour and economic conquests are particularly in question. “And to all this is added, obviously, the pernicious consequences that may occur in terms of job losses, and the gender bias generally associated with these processes”.

Sexual abuse of women and girls increased during lockdown

The number of calls received on the hotline for victims of gender-based violence in April 2020 increased by 60 per cent over the same period last year, and also increased telematic consultations.”Since cohabitation is a risk factor for these women, it is to be assumed that lockdown even made it impossible to carry out many other equally necessary calls for help. Recently, the president of the Observatory against Domestic and Gender Violence of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) predicted an increase in reports of male violence in his appearance at the Commission for the Social and Economic Reconstruction at the Congress. The Equality Ministry, following the declaration of the state of alarm, launched a Contingency Plan against gender-based violence which developed a series of measures to assist victims of gender-based violence. Thus, both the hotline for victims of gender-based violence (016), online consultations and the new emotional and psychological support and care service via WhatsApp (attended by psychologists with expertise in gender-based violence) were declared essential services during the health crisis, functioning normally 24 hours a day, every day of the week. The “Mask 19” campaign was also launched throughout the country, in collaboration with the Official Colleges of Pharmacies, focused on ensuring that staff put in place a protocol for the protection and care of women victims of male violence when they requested a “mask 19″ in their establishments. Lastly, in view of the anticipated increase in the number of complaints, the CGPJ recently approved a plan to strengthen the gender-based violence courts, for example by establishing a victim support office, or with accompanying measures for women in the judicial process, among others”.

“Measures such as the Minimum Living Income are a big step forward in terms of social justice”

Although women often lose their rights and see their living conditions worsen in crisis situations, the researcher considers that there are reasons for hope. ” In the central government there is a Equality Ministry, whose priority role at this time should be to avoid these reactionary processes. On the other hand, the feminist movement is more established and healthy than ever in our society. We will see how we can get out of this crisis. Measures such as the Minimum Living Income are a great step forward in terms of social justice, and also gender equality”, she says.