Progress made towards gender equality could stall or worse, be reversed, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a new report by UN Women suggests.
The report found that there has been an increase in the need for and intensity of household chores and care, a burden that is shouldered more by women than men.
Prior to Covid-19, the report says, women spent up to three times more time on unpaid domestic work and care than men.
However, post-Covid and the subsequent lockdowns and more and more people working from home, the situation has worsened.
Women are taking on a greater intensity of care-related tasks as well as spending more time doing domestic work than men, report says. There’s more emphasis on cooking healthy meals and keeping homes clean in order to curb the spread of the virus.
Caring for loved ones
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Data from the study points out that women put in more hours to ensure that the home runs smoothly. More men performed no household chores than those who did. Less than a fifth of men helped with the cooking as compared to a third of women while more than half reported that they didn’t do any cooking.
When it comes to childcare, UN Women reported that women now spend 5.2 hours more looking after the children bringing this to a total of 26 hours a week. This amounts to a fulltime job of unpaid childcare. On the other hand, men spent 20 hours on childcare.
The report goes on to point out that parents are getting more help from daughters than sons.
When it comes to employment, more women than men were rendered jobless in 2020 with the numbers expected to rise come the end of 2021. This is because some have been forced to leave their jobs in order to have more time for domestic work while others were let go when their places of employment were faced with economic hardships as a result of the pandemic.
UN Women reports that the economic fallout is expected to push millions of additional people into extreme poverty – and women and girls stand to be the hardest-hit. An estimated 13 percent of the world's women and girls (469 million) will be living in extreme poverty.
What can be done
According to UN Women, the world’s economies and our daily lives are made possible by the unpaid care work of women and girls. This work, however, is underappreciated and often goes without pay.
In addition to this, many women are trying to keep their jobs as well as address the increased demand for domestic work and care.
Inasmuch as the world’s governments have put in measures to cushion their citizens and economies from the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, very little has been done to address women’s economic security.
UN Women recommends a change in policy and an investment in the care economy. This will ensure that care workers, majority of whom are women, are adequately remunerated. As a result, the worrying trend that is threatening to reverse decades of progress towards the ideals of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as well as the Sustainable Development Goals, will be nipped in the bud before it's too late.