The coronavirus epidemic has had a huge impact on the working life of the affected countries. According to the professor of Economics at the Pompeu University, Fabra Libertad González, an expert in the gender gap, just as the previous crisis affected more masculinized professions, such as construction, this time she will do so in those that are most occupied by women, such as the service and hospitality sectors.
In their opinion, in the long term, changes in the organization of work and in social norms may occur that are more beneficial for women than for men.
Coronavirus is having very profound effects on the labor market. How do you think it will be transformed in the medium and long term?
There will undoubtedly be major and persistent changes. The crisis is having and will have very different impacts between sectors. The hotel and tourism industry will be one of the most punished in the medium term.
Is there a gender gap in the labor effects of the coronavirus crisis? Can it affect men and women differently?
The last recession affected more masculinized sectors such as construction and industry to a greater extent. As a consequence, the unemployment rate increased more among men than among women. However, in this crisis the service sector will be the most affected, and in this sector more than half of the workers are women, so that female employment will be more affected than in previous crises.
The impact of the current crisis on work activity also depends on the possibility of teleworking, which depends on each activity. It is estimated that the most feminized sectors lend themselves less to telework than others.
But also, the closure of educational centers has had a significant impact for women with children, who have had to take care of full-time care, which for many has meant great difficulties in the workplace.
And in the long term, how can it affect?
In the longer term, some of these changes may end up having positive consequences for gender equality. Greater dissemination of teleworking may end up facilitating work-family balance if it encourages flexibility. In addition, there are families in which it is the father who is being forced to assume the care tasks, since the mother is the one who has to continue working. This can foster a normalization of homework sharing in the long-term that is positive and encourages a cultural shift towards greater equality.
In the case of single-parent families, mostly made up of women. Do you miss policies aimed at this segment?
Households made up of single mothers with children are among the most vulnerable. Many women in this situation face complicated situations, reduced income due to job loss, or great difficulties in combining telework and care.
Social protection and income supplement measures should consider these cases with special care.
What measures would you recommend to support the combination of work and childcare both now and in the longer term?
Difficulties in combining work and care already existed, although now they have been temporarily accentuated by the closure of educational centers. The measures that can mitigate these problems are known, and they go through making working hours more flexible and reducing attendance and working hours, as well as promoting a more equal distribution of family responsibilities between men and women and a change in the mentality that it attributes women the main role of caregivers. The current situation represents a challenge but perhaps also an opportunity to advance in these directions.
They are doing a teleworking and reconciliation survey. Do you have any preliminary idea of the results?
We believe it is important to collect first-rate data to document the effects of confinement on families. We were especially interested in homes with children under the age of 16. What we intended with the survey is to have information on the work situation of families before and after school closings, but also to combine it with detailed data on the distribution of tasks at home before and after, with special emphasis on leisure activities. and learning with the children.
We know that mothers spent more time on household chores and childcare before the crisis. We wanted to understand if these patterns were becoming more pronounced in the current situation, or if, on the contrary, the crisis was promoting a more equal distribution of work time and household chores.
We have been contacted by researchers from other countries proposing to extend the survey internationally. The Italian version is almost ready.
An important problem with the survey that we have circulated is that, being open and voluntary, the sample we collect will not be representative of the general population. For this reason, we are also working to carry out the questionnaire to a representative sample.