Research Political Sciences

The Impact of COVID on Women? Not Just Lost Jobs

, by Camillo Papini
The pandemic has hit women harder than men, especially those who were in a vulnerable condition before the pandemic, triggering a vicious cycle that makes it even harder to relaunch female employment

It has already been clarified that the pandemic has negatively impacted female employment, but what has not yet been carefully explored are the cross-cutting and indirect effects of the health crisis. It is true that the spread of the virus has hit women harder than men, but it is equally true that some categories of women have been more disadvantaged than others. Just think of those who were in a vulnerable condition before the pandemic, for instance single mothers working, those working with a casual contract or in a low-income job, and older women in general. Then add in the simple fact that the sectors most affected (services, hospitality, domestic work) are exactly those with a prevalence of female employment.

In short, "the virus has triggered a vicious cycle that makes it even harder to relaunch female employment, especially in a country like Italy where the starting condition was one with only one in two women in employment. The crisis endangers the results already achieved in terms of gender equality, in particular in the labor market but not only that", explains Paola Profeta, Professor of Public Economics at Bocconi, who coordinated the study "COVID-19 and its economic impact on women and women's poverty", commissioned by the European Parliament in 5 countries (Italy, France, Germany, Poland and Sweden) and published on

According to the study, government policies in response to COVID have failed to compensate for the gender divide, generating adverse effects even outside the economic sphere. Women, for example, are now exposed to a higher likelihood of domestic violence. The prolonged closure of schools has also created additional work in the household for families, especially for mothers. However, the socio-economic damage of the pandemic was not equal across the the countries analyzed. The most damage occurred in the same countries where closing the gender gap had not been a policy priority before COVID.

This is why, now more than ever, "we need to invest in specific vocational training and higher education programs, especially in finance and financial literacy, given that women live on average longer than men and at greater risk of poverty in old age", concludes Profeta. "It is also recommended to intervene on the quality of women's work, in terms of more formal job classifications, while in parallel making men's work more flexible and expand parental leave for fathers, measures that also bring significant benefits for women".