COVID-19 impact on employment: women suffer a devastating blow, studies suggest
The implications of a complete shutdown of economic activities for over 2 months has adversely affected the labour market, especially the female workforce.
In an announcement at a garment factory affiliated to Gokaldas Exports Ltd in Srirangapatna, Karnataka, more than 1,300 workers were laid off in the first week of June. The factory workers, mostly women, received the notice amid an unprecedented economic crisis, thanks to the nationwide lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It came without warning", recounts Pallavi, a factory worker who lost her job in the process. "Laying us off like this is illegal", she told The NewsMinute.
Pallavi is among the many who have felt the jolts of job insecurity in the wake of a stringent lockdown.
According to the stringency Index, developed by the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University, India had already reached the pinnacle of stringency by 22nd March 2020. The implications of a complete shutdown of economic activities for over 2 months has adversely affected the labour market, especially the female workforce.
A study titled "The COVID 19 Lockdown in India: Gender and Caste Dimensions of the First Job Losses" by Ashwini Deshpande revealed that men are more likely to be employed overall, and drop in male employment is greater than female by 17.6 percentage points.
While employment in the pre-lockdown phase is the strongest predictor of post-lockdown employment, this effect varies across men and women. Women who were employed in the pre-lockdown phase were 23.5 percentage points less likely to be employed in the post-lockdown phase. Male heads of households were 11.3 percentage points more likely to be employed in the post-lockdown phase, compared to female heads of households who were employed in the pre-lockdown phase.
The lockdown-implicated economic slump has resulted in a domino effect of setbacks. The country has already witnessed an unprecedented catastrophe - with millions of employees out of work, the migrant crisis, and the spread of the coronavirus, these grim times reveal a sad picture of India's poor and vulnerable.
Economic uncertainty has especially fuelled anxiety among women. A national employment study conducted in May reported that women are more anxious about getting fired and fear for their future as compared to men. This has a direct link to the patriarchal social set up wherein women find their economic independence under constant threat.
Indian women were already shaken out of the workforce in greater numbers in recent years. Between 2004-5 and 2017-18, gaps in the labour force participation have widened. The Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLFPR) has declined significantly in the last 15 years, signifying a great economic divide between men and women. When observed through the prism of social and economic standing, socially disadvantaged groups are worst hit.
Since most women in India are employed in the informal sector, the problems have exacerbated significantly in the lockdown period. They are further subjected to long hours of unpaid labour. On an average, women perform 9.6 times more unpaid care work than men. According to the ILO, the pandemic might increase this burden.
An economist at Yale University, Rohini Pande researches women's employment patterns in India. She warns that female migrant workers will face steep challenges. Many women go against their parents' wishes of getting them married and leave their villages for jobs.
"The pipeline was already extremely leaky. It's just going to get leakier", she was quoted as saying by The New York Times.
Not just India, but the pandemic-induced afflictions have adversely affected women across the globe. A UNDP report recently revealed a sharp decline in human development, the first time in 3 decades, mostly affecting women and children.
Globally, researches show that women are more vulnerable to losing their jobs as compared to men. A study conducted by Citibank estimates that around 31 million women around the globe are at risk of potential job cuts as compared to 13 million men.
In Japan, women suffer greatly in one of the worst economic slumps since World War Two. Women who are usually viewed as work supplements and are employed in non-regular jobs witness a crisis like never before. They are out of jobs, suffer major pay cuts and have little to sustain themselves as the country tries to find its balance amid plummeting economic numbers.
In Australia, the ravages of the pandemic have left women overworked, anxious and insecure. According to a study conducted by Melbourne University, housework is up around an hour and 10 minutes every day for women, but less than half an hour for men.