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Covid-19 Pandemic: The Worst Crisis for Women

by Harwant Khush, Ph.D., Research Consultant, Tero International

The world has been through multiple economic recessions and depressions. People have lived through numerous calamities that were beyond their control. During such events, the prime impact was generally on men. These crises were known as "mancession" (The Atlantic).

At present, people all over the world are living through the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a critical health emergency that has significantly impacted and devastated women's lives. For the first time, society has labeled this crisis as "shecession" (NYTimes). Wherever COVID-19 is prevalent, it disproportionately harms women's lives compared to men.

All through the prevalence of COVID-19, women are facing its dire adverse consequences. It has impacted their economic, social, emotional, and personal lives as never before. Some of the vital factors affected are:

Economic Impact of COVID-19

Women's jobs are being reduced all over the world. According to the Mckinsey & Company report of July 2020, "Women's jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men's jobs. Women make up 39 percent of global employment but account for 54 percent of overall job losses."

In the USA, one of the highly economically developed countries, the situation is no different for women. National Women's Law Center cited the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' April 2020 report and noted, "women made up 49% of the overall workforce, but accounted for 55% of job losses."

Multiple factors have contributed to women's employment reductions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The long-term ramifications of this economic downturn are multiple. By being out of the workforce, career advancements and opportunities for professional growth also become limited. Unless society pays attention to these factors, the impact of women's economic conditions will last for a long time.

Growing Violence Against Women

Physical, psychological, emotional, gender-based, and domestic violence has increased exponentially during the COVID-19 crisis. Considering the severity of the situation, the U.N. has labeled it as The Shadow Pandemic and stated,

"...before the pandemic, violence against women was already alarmingly high, with nearly one in five women (18 percent) experiencing violence...with COVID-19, an increased reporting of domestic violence has surfaced, with a staggering 40 percent rise in some countries."

According to the U.N. report, "One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner."

The World Bank report states that increased violence is due to stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, lockdown, and social distance orders. The home has not become a haven or a safe place for women, but a shut-in place with abusers.

Instead of domestic abuse, the number of intimate partner violence (IPV) has increased substantially in the U.S. One in 4 women experiences IPV, as reported by the New England Journal of Medicine. The Hopkins Medicine journal states that "the rate of murder-suicide, in which a male partner kills a female and then himself, has risen..." Thus, Coronavirus makes lives difficult for women as they suffer through numerous physical and psychological sufferings.

Increasing Unpaid Work Responsibilities

"Our formal economy is only possible because it's subsidized by women's unpaid work. And so we have almost this black box over the home, and everything that happens there has a zero dollar value on it."

- Nahla Valji, the senior gender adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations

For those women who remain employed, COVID-19 has amplified unpaid work, thereby increasing their stress and anxiety. Many women struggle to balance their jobs from home, taking on extra household responsibilities, and homeschooling their children, without any added economic remuneration. New York Times survey states, "...seventy percent of women say they're fully or mostly responsible for housework during a lockdown, and sixty-six percent say so for child care."

Societal norms have also created and perpetuated the myths about the gendered role of women. These myths have been magnified and taken to a higher level during this crisis with the belief that women are more suitable to do the housework and take on added responsibilities

Some of the latest research studies on gender norms show that men are beginning to share some of these responsibilities, but their role is still not equitable. Until these gendered demarcations change, women worldwide will shoulder the burden of unpaid labor.

Diminishing Social Protection Services

Along with the multiple adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic noted above, women are also losing their safety-net social protection services that were usually provided through their employment. Women fall behind on their economic perks and benefits, health insurance, social security contributions, and medicare benefits. Lack of social protection services increases their exposure to poverty and makes them the most helpless society members.

The World Bank report states, "Social protection systems help the poor and vulnerable cope with crises and shocks, find jobs, invest in the health and education of their children, and protect the aging population." Nevertheless, according to the International Labor Organization, "The COVID-19 crisis has exposed devastating gaps in social protection coverage in developing countries."

In the USA the situation is similar. According to the Center for American Progress' April report, "The Coronavirus Crisis confirms that the U.S Health Care System Fails Women." This report states the pandemic could exacerbate barriers to care that women receive, particularly for women of color, as well as women with low incomes, disabilities, and those who live in rural areas.

Lack of social protection interventions during sickness, quarantine, and economic downturn is a wake-up call to find ways to maintain quality of life through this and other such crises for women.


Covid-19 has had a significant impact on women's lives, health, and lifestyle. It created a crisis never witnessed before in history. Sociologists have warned that economic and social disruption caused by the COVID-19 could cause more troubles, and have a significant lingering impact on the fundamentals of societies, than the disease itself. Since women have been disproportionately affected, the pandemic could have dire consequences for families and communities for a long time to come.

Consequently, governments and other societal organizations need to be proactive by paying attention to women's plight and uplifting societies. In the words of Viviana Waisman (President and CEO of Women's Link Worldwide)

"It is in moments of crisis, such as the one we are facing, that women and girls suffer the greatest violation of their rights. Therefore, now more than ever, as organizations, we must ensure that their fundamental rights and access to justice are respected and guaranteed."

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