Trapped in double pandemic

Analysts foresees an entire generation of marginalized women, with job losses, lower incomes and unerated promotions. A sad picture.

By: Maria Claudia Lacouture, Executive Director, AmCham Colombia

October 13, 2020 (AmCham Colombia) – While it is true that important spaces in the fight for gender equality have been conquered in the role of women in the family and in society, and their relevance in economic development, we were unable to warn that a situation as adverse as that of covid-19 had such a strong impact on the imbalance between men and women and a double pandemic had been unleashed for us.

As far as Colombia is concerned, the most recent unemployment report of the National Administrative Department of Statistics (Dane) reveals that between June and August unemployment in women stood at 24.2%, representing an increase of 10.8 percentage points compared to the same period in 2019. Men's was 15.3%.

According to Fedesarrollo, 62% of working-age women participate in the labour market, eight points below the average of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (Oecd), while men's participation is 85%, above average in that body that encourages good practice.

During the first quarter of 2020, 66.6% of men were busy, while only 44.3% of women were. During the second half of the year the occupation of women became 32.8% which equates to a drop of 11.5 points.

Analysts foresees an entire generation of marginalized women, with job losses, lower incomes and unerated promotions. A sad picture.

The World Labour Organization (ILO) report notes that, unlike other crises, female employment is at greater risk, particularly because of the impact of the recession on the services sector. Women make up a large part of workers facing care and social care sectors, for example.

In Colombia, 90% of domestic service employees are women who in good numbers lost their jobs due to health restrictions and fears of the companies or families they collaborated with. And if you add to this that according to Corewoman 2020 about 70% of domestic servants are heads of household, we are facing a double pandemic for gender.

Let's add to this the disproportionate workload and unpaid hours of household chores. They used to spend 4.1 hours (versus 1.7 hours of males) cleaning, caring for children, shopping or cooking. During the pandemic, an increase of three hours a day is calculated, which reveals the setback in complementarity.

This landscape makes imperative a multidisciplinary reaction of society and its institutions, coupled with an effort that crosses actions and brings to a high level of awareness, political militancy and active citizen participation. We need public policies and private sector engagement that contribute to better education, more relevant training and new spaces that promote gender complementarity.

Every crisis is an opportunity and this should be no exception, the time forces us to retake, reform and follow up on the protection and prevention of women and to allocate resources that narrow the gender gap or, otherwise, we run the risk of getting caught up in a double pandemic that is difficult to overcome.

Posted in The Republic, available here