A global survey of more than 10,000 people in 38 countries suggests the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted women’s lives significantly more than men’s. While losing their jobs and not having enough to eat were the biggest threats identified by both women and men, women were more likely to have lost their incomes and be skipping meals in order to feed their families.
The research, by the aid organisation CARE, is the first to compare global, quantitative data about women’s and men’s experiences since the pandemic took hold earlier this year.
CARE surveyed 6,200 women and 4,000 men in developing countries — including those on Australia’s doorstep such as Timor-Leste and Indonesia — and also analysed secondary data in wealthier countries such as Australia and the US.
Women were almost three times more likely than men to report rising stress, anxiety and other mental health issues, which many attributed to the increased demands of childcare during school closures.
CARE Australia CEO, Peter Walton, said: “the COVID-19 crisis risks undoing the significant gains lower-income countries have made over the last decade in terms of lifting people out of poverty and creating more equal societies for women and men.
“Of the more than 10,000 vulnerable people CARE has surveyed since April, 55% of women and 34% of men have lost their jobs or incomes. Losing a job is incredibly stressful for anyone, but the difference in these figures underlines the fact that, globally, women are more likely to be employed in insecure, under-valued and low-paid forms of work.”
In April, a CARE Australia report warned part time and casual workers in Australia — the majority of whom are women — were more likely to be laid off or have their hours reduced during the crisis and throughout the economic recovery.
Peter Walton said: “our predictions regarding Australian workers have played out, and while many challenges remain, government payments have thankfully eased some of the strain for laid-off workers or those at risk of job loss. In lower-income countries, and especially for informal workers, such government safety nets don’t always exist.”
In Vietnam, many jobs that are typically done by women — such as clothing factory work, selling goods on the street and house cleaning — were some of the first to go.
Le Kim Dung, Country Director for CARE in Vietnam, said: “there has been some innovation and ingenuity amongst this — many street sellers have turned to Facebook groups to sell their goods — but many aren’t familiar with the technology and are getting left behind.
“Although some of the men and women we spoke to said that out-of-work husbands were now doing more around the house, the vast majority of housework, childcare and learning support for school children is still being done by women — often in addition to her paid job.”
In June, a CARE study of 30 countries including Australia found national COVID-19 responses were being overwhelmingly led by men. There is, on average, only one woman for every three men on national COVID-19 response committees.
With the Australian Government redirecting $280 million in overseas aid funding towards helping our neighbours through the COVID-19 crisis, CARE Australia CEO Peter Walton said CARE’s findings could help inform an aid response that better considered everyone’s experiences and needs.
“CARE’s research is the first of its kind to break down women’s and men’s experiences of the pandemic in this way. This is important because too often women’s experiences are overlooked in a crisis, and women don’t have a fair say in decisions about how societies respond and recover.”
“We are all in this crisis together, but it’s not affecting everyone the same way. Understanding that will be key to building back a society that is more equal — not less.”
For interviews with CARE spokespeople in Australia and overseas, contact Iona Salter on 0413 185 634
Download the full report She Told Us So: Filling the data gap to build back equal. For country-level analysis and quotes from survey respondents, please contact Iona Salter (details above).
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