Women bear brunt of virus fallout in workplace

LONDON, June 21, 2020 (AFP) - The reverberating economic shock of the coronavirus crisis has delivered a massive setback for women because so many work in the badly exposed services sector, experts say.

The nature of the outbreak means women are more likely than men to lose or quit their jobs in vulnerable low-paying workplaces like bars, conference venues, hairdressing salons, hotels, pubs and restaurants, which faced extensive shutdowns.

School closures during lockdown have exacerbated the situation because more women than men tend to care for and teach their children, even while working from home.

The services sector, covering areas like hospitality and leisure, has been ravaged by lockdowns imposed by governments across the world trying to halt the spread of the disease.

“In the UK and the US, women are more likely to lose their jobs because they are more likely to work in services,” said Cambridge University economics lecturer Christopher Rauh.

“When you lose your job you are not just losing income now — but also later on,” he told AFP.

As lockdowns ease and infection rates and deaths fall, the services sector is often the last to reopen because it tends to rely on large numbers of people in close contact.

In Britain, stay-at-home measures began to be relaxed earlier this month but pubs, bars and restaurants are expected to reopen only from July 4.

The phased reopening in England started with outdoor markets and car showrooms, and some younger children also returned to school.

However, not all primary school children will return before the lengthy summer break that starts in mid-July and runs until the start of September.

Within family units, mothers have been 1.5 times more likely than fathers to lose or quit their jobs since the crisis began, according to think-tank the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

Women are also more likely than men to have been furloughed, or temporarily paid by the UK government’s jobs retention scheme, it added.

Mothers traditionally assume a larger share of unpaid housework on top of their paid work.