The current covid19 situation has impacted businesses and economies in unprecedented ways. There are many long-term threats and consequences to be dealt with. While jobs and economic issues are the main highlights, social and mental wellbeing issues that women will have to bear, goes often unnoticed. How societies and businesses approach gender in this new normal will play a critical role on how successful we are in creating gender-equal environments
Domestic violence, and psychological wellbeing
A recent article in The Hindu, stated that India has recorded more than a twofold rise in gender-based violence during the lockdown period alone. Male psychological distress due to various issues like job losses, combined with the confinement of both partners at home during the lockdown, has resulted in this growth in domestic violence and a noticeable reduction in the ability of these women to leave their abusive partners
This will have a telling impact in both the short and long term, on women’s psychological well-being.
The economic impact for women
According to ILO, in many countries, women’s participation in the labour market is often in the form of temporary employment. Across the world, women represent less than 40% of total employment but make up 57% of those working part-time. With the increase in job cuts, women are facing the brunt of these measures. According to a recent Forbes article over 55% of job losses recently comprise of women! However, if more companies move towards the gig economy and prefer a larger number of work from home staff, it could potentially create more work opportunities for women.
Impact on education
Closure of schools and colleges, lack of proper digital infrastructure for online learning across the country, has a negative impact on the education opportunities for girls. The number of girls discontinuing their education will increase and this will have an adverse impact on the number of women in tomorrow’s talent pool. All these factors will only increase the inequalities faced by women in educational, economic, and financial fronts
Policymakers from government as well as industries should keep gender at the centre of any policy development for the new normal. A thorough understanding of the impact of lockdowns on women and girls is crucial for the development and implementation of effective policy measures going forward.
As the lockdowns are eased across the country, creating dedicated job portals for women in association with leading industry brands could help women match with potential employers, especially in urban areas. More than ever, technology is going to be at the core of our “new normal” and bridging the digital gap across tier 2, 3 cities will ensure that girls are not missing out opportunities in accessing education. Setting up mental wellness support infrastructure in organizations can help women combat challenges through high stress, depression among other mental illnesses.
All the relevant stakeholders in the ecosystem need to work together in creating flexible policy tools, support systems to address women’s concerns as the effects of the pandemic evolve over time.