5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic impacts women worldwide

From ActionAid’s experience working with women on the frontlines of crisis, we know that humanitarian crises and health emergencies are not gender neutral. 


Here’s how women are disproportionally impacted by COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Increased health risks 
    Women hold two-thirds of health sector jobs globally, which puts them at the forefront of care and treatment of people affected by the COVID-19 virus. Women are also more likely to take on the burden of care at home. So, as hospitals become overwhelmed with caring for the most severe cases, many people with COVID-19 will need to be cared for at home, greatly increasing women’s own risk of infection. Migrant and undocumented women caring for families as domestic workers also face a huge risk to their health and livelihoods. And without sick leave, unemployment benefits or access to health services the risk increases significantly.
  2. Unpaid caregivers 
    Women do three-times as much unpaid care work as men and bear most of the responsibility for raising children. With schools and kindergartens closing many women will be forced out of work to care for their children at home. Women who are living in poverty, working in service jobs that can’t be done from home, and those without paid leave are especially vulnerable and risk losing their jobs to care for their family.
  3. Unprotected workers
    Women disproportionately hold jobs in industries with low wages and poor protections. These women often don’t have access to paid family leave or sick leave meaning they can’t afford to miss work to take care of their children or elderly relatives, let alone themselves. In developing countries, more than two-thirds of women work in the informal economy. Without sick leave and unemployment benefits, when these women don’t work, their families go hungry. For women with no social support system, the long-term economic impact of this pandemic could be catastrophic. Many migrant women, and those working in informal sectors without employment contracts are more likely to lose their jobs as economies all over the world slow down.
  4. Excluded from decision-making 
    Women are underrepresented in leadership and decision-making positions globally and make up only roughly 25% of managerial and parliamentary positions. Women are also underrepresented in humanitarian decision-making and in the leadership of national disaster management authorities. When women are excluded from emergency response initiatives their needs are often overlooked. As a result, during times of crisis, existing gender inequalities are exacerbated. The mass closure of schools and preschools is an example of how decision-making can disproportionately impact women as they will be most likely to lose paid work to care for their children at home.
  5. Increased gender-based violence 
    Gender-based violence increases during times of crisis. As family tensions rise due to economic stress and women and children are at a heightened risk of domestic violence. Self-isolation will also prevent women from accessing support services and leaving dangerous situations. 

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