The COVID-19 global pandemic has reversed women’s workplace gains in many of the world’s wealthiest countries as the burden of childcare rose and female-dominated sectors shed jobs, according to a new report.
Citing the latest PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) “Women in Work 2021 Index,” the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported women were more likely than men to lose their jobs in 17 of the 24 rich countries where unemployment rose last year. Jobs in female-dominated sectors like marketing and communications were more likely to be lost than roles in finance, which are more likely to be held by men.
The PwC report called this slowdown a “shecession” and said gender equality at work would not begin to recover until 2022.
Women’s jobs are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 because of existing gender inequalities in society, and the disruptive impact of the pandemic on service sectors with high levels of female employment. Women were spending on average 7.7 more hours a week than men on unpaid childcare, a “second shift” that is forcing some out of paid work altogether, the report said.
“Although jobs will return when economies bounce back, they will not necessarily be the same jobs,” said Larice Stielow, senior economist at PwC.
“If we don’t have policies in place to directly address the unequal burden of care, and to enable more women to enter jobs in growing sectors of the economy, women will return to fewer hours, lower-skilled, and lower paid jobs,” Stielow said.
The report looked at data from 33 countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In the United States, OECD data showed female unemployment increased sharply from 4.4% in March 2020 to a high of 16.1% in April 2020. Female unemployment ended the year at 6.7% in December 2020, which was a 3% increase over December 2019.