The US is currently a gynocentric society

Consequences of the crisis for women: exacerbation of inequality and long-term opportunity

A new study by researchers from Northwestern University, the University of Mannheim and the University of California looks at the changed employment opportunities for women due to Corona. Due to the coronavirus, women are currently confronted with additional tasks through paid and unpaid care work. On the other hand, they will lose their jobs due to the economic crisis, the study says.

The effect: the existing inequalities will worsen - at least in the short term, according to the researchers. In the long term, however, the corona crisis could also be a catalyst for changes in work culture, for example through increased flexibility that could promote gender equality in the long term. For example, more fathers are currently being forced to take on the main responsibility for bringing up children. That could change cultural norms.

Comparison with previous crises

The study examined what distinguishes the current economic downturn from previous recessions. In all major recessions, including the financial crisis ten years ago, more men than women lost their jobs. The reason: The areas hardest hit by the recessions were dominated by men, such as manufacturing and construction. In addition, in previous economic crises, married women have often done more gainful employment in order to compensate for the financial loss in the family.

But completely different areas are affected in the current crisis, explains Matthias Doepke, economist at Northwestern University and co-author of the study, in an interview with the "New York Times". Sectors that are badly affected, such as gastronomy or the travel industry, have a relatively high level of female employment, so more women will lose their jobs in this crisis, said Doepke.

Childcare factor

Another factor that is particularly aggravating for women in this crisis: People with children now have to take on all childcare due to closings or access restrictions to childcare facilities and schools. The vast majority of women do this extra work, which in turn makes it difficult for them to do their job.

On the other hand, the researchers also see the opportunity for cultural change. One such would have been in relation to work through the Second World War, because it was the first time that many married women with children entered the world of work. "A lot of research shows that this had a lasting impact on social norms," ​​says Doepke.

In the current crisis, there is definitely potential on the part of employers. Currently, numerous companies have to offer home office and also offer guidelines and technologies for this. The companies have invested in this and also saw many advantages. The researchers therefore assume that this additional flexibility will, at least in part, be retained even after the crisis and that mothers would benefit from this new flexibility.

Opportunities for the division of labor

Another potential lies in the distribution of unpaid care work. Not everyone who earns more works more, says Doepke; it has more to do with cultural expectations and norms. For example, women with higher incomes than their husbands still often take on the greater part of childcare. But norms like these, i.e. that care work is automatically assigned to women independently of gainful employment, could now be softened. For example, when women work in the medical or other necessary field and fathers are therefore the main people responsible for the household and children.

According to the researchers, research suggests that these temporary changes will have a lasting effect. For example, a study from Spain showed that just a two-week vacation especially for fathers of a newborn child meant that they would be more involved in childcare in the future. (beaha, April 1st, 2020)