The eve of the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act came with a warning for women across the world. Experts believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has a lethal effect on gender equality that could as well set the women back by decades.
The pandemic is not only seeing women losing jobs, but also doing more household chores, and childcare compared to their male counterparts. This has prompted global thinktanks, campaigners, and politicians to question the equality of women in society – concluding that 50 years of struggle for gender equality might just be reversed.
According to Sam Smethers, the CEO of the Fawcett Society,
“In my view, women’s workplace equality will have been set back decades by this crisis unless the government intervenes to avert it… We’re looking at the prospect of a two-tier workplace where men go back and women stay home. It’s taken us 20 years to get this far on female participation in the workforce, but it could take only months to unravel.”
Let’s look at some vital consequences the pandemic could exert on key areas –
1. COVID-19 and Women at Work
According to surveys conducted by the UCL Institute of Education and the Institute for Fiscal Studies, women – who are mothers – are 47% more likely to have been sacked from their permanent profiles, and 14% more likely to have furloughed when compared to their peers since the beginning of the pandemic.
Furthermore, data collected from the Resolution Foundation shows that about one in 10 low salary earners has been allowed to work from home. About 69% of low-wage earners are women, which once again focuses on the plight of women in this pandemic.
2. COVID-19 and Gender Pay Gap
According to reports furnished by the Business in the Community, organizations were exempted from mandatory filing of the gender pay-gap data this year owing to the pandemic.
As a result, only 50% of the registered companies filed the same.
Talking about this, a gender equality campaign director, Charlotte Woodworth said:
“It is hugely disappointing to see so many opted out when the legal requirement was lifted, and a worrying sign of attitudes towards gender equality during the crisis.”
3. COVID-19 and Maternity Discrimination
Reports further suggest that innumerable healthcare workers were pushed into emergency services despite being pregnant, while many were blatantly laid off.
According to the founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, Joeli Brearley, this dangerous discrimination has already seen nearly 54,000 women worldwide being sacked from their permanent jobs.
She said, “In times of crisis, employers tend to revert to conventional ways of working. Pregnancy is considered a burden, while mothers are seen as distracted and less committed.
“We are seeing a blatant erosion of employment rights for pregnant women during this crisis, and it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.’’
4. COVID-19 and Childcare
Childcare is an industry that sees predominantly women workers – the estimation is 97%. As a result, the Fawcett Society estimates that nearly 150,000 childcare providers have been rendered jobless by the pandemic.
Neil Leitch, the chief executive of Early Years Alliance, believes that many childcare providers may have to look for alternative livelihood options in the near future. Supporting his statement, he said, “The sector was already operating on a hand-to-mouth basis after years of inadequate government funding.”
5. COVID-19 and Brutality Against Girls And Women
One of the major crises that young girls and women are going through in this lockdown is the immense violence perpetrated against them. UK’s national domestic abuse helpline, Refuge, has reported nearly 10-fold increase in website visits.
Nearly two-thirds of survivors reportedly suffered domestic abuse amid the lockdown as per the Women’s Aid Survey conducted in April this year.
Astonishingly enough, reports of violence against women are not only coming in from third-world countries or the relatively backward countries but also from first-world countries, including the USA and France. However, the governments are working very closely with help groups and NGOs to tackle the situation and work towards maintaining gender equality as much as possible.