If one thinks about the correlation between Covid-19 and gender equality; they might argue that Covid-19 is a health crisis that the world is going through, whereas gender equality is a social movement. Fair enough! However, the pandemic has affected men and women in different ways. Studies have shown that the pandemic has been more severe on women and children than it has on men. According to a report by Mckinsey & Co., women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs. Women make up 39 percent of global employment but account for 54 percent of overall job losses. This goes to show that the pandemic is definitely having a regressive effect on gender equality.
The need for a gender sensitive response
Previous outbreaks such as Ebola in 2014, Zika virus in 2015-2016, SARS, MERS have all had a severe negative effect on gender equality. The Covid-19 pandemic has been no different, although its effects are still yet to be fully determined. Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) has shared with the International Gender Champions network his view that “The response to the COVID-19 pandemic must be gender-sensitive and responsive. Not only are women and children some of the most fragile population groups whose needs can be overlooked in health emergencies, but 70% of the health workforce caring for those affected is also made up of women. WHO is committed to using a gender lens to continuously evaluate and improve our response efforts. ”
Even pre-pandemic, the gender equality movement hadn’t gathered a lot of steam. The Covid-19 crisis has further exposed the cracks and deepened the inequalities between the two genders. Most nations have failed to provide equal access to healthcare and social protection to women. This has put women with informal jobs, young mothers, low-income families, and the youth at great discomfort . The rise in domestic violence and sexual abuse too has further deepened the gender equality crisis.
Slow and unstable progress
According to a report by Mckinsey & Co., progress towards equality in work and society has stayed relatively flat in the five years between 2014 and 2019. In 2014, the global GPS (Gender Parity Score) score was 0.60; today, it is 0.61 (on a scale of 0 to 1, where 1 signifies full parity between women and men). Gender equality in work continues to lag behind gender equality in society, with a GPS of 0.52 versus 0.67, respectively. The participation of women in the labor force too has remained flat from 2014-2019. Acting as a glimmer of hope, maternal mortality and the participation of women in professional, technical, and political jobs has seen a considerable increase.