Understanding the economic impact of COVID-19 on women
Despite numerous reports of “cession”, most women have managed to keep their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, suggests a paper to be discussed at the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity on March 24. It was a mixed blessing, however, because women – far more than men – bore the brunt of caring for children and aging parents.
“Many more mothers and other women who care for them have been stressed, frustrated and anxious because they have done this. do not quit their jobs than they have been forced out of the workforce or reduced working hours,” writes Claudia Goldin of Harvard University in Understanding the economic impact of COVID-19 on women.
Generally, recessions affect male employment more than female employment, as more men work in cyclically sensitive sectors, such as manufacturing and construction, while more women work in generally more stable services. But the 2020 pandemic recession hit services harder than previous recessions. Women working in restaurants, hospitality, retail and personal care have had their workplaces closed. The jobs hardest hit by the pandemic meant that people without college degrees, both women and men, were more likely to lose their jobs than people with college degrees, who could often work from home.
In May 2020, more than 60% of male and female college graduates were working from home due to COVID, but only about 25% of women without a college degree and only 14% of men without a college degree were. The differences between the two education groups in remote work decreased over time, but remained large and increased again during the Omicron wave.
“The pandemic has produced both a surrender for him and a surrender for her,” writes Goldin. “Compared to previous recessions, women have been hit harder. But the biggest differences in the effects of the pandemic on employment are between education groups rather than between genders within education groups.
Goldin compared the percentage of people “at work” during the pandemic with the percentage a year or two earlier for the same season. “At work” differs in one important way from employment. People with a job but on leave due to the pandemic, for example, are not included in “at work”. A comparison of autumn 2020 to autumn 2018, for example, takes into account seasonal variations in employment and an abnormal peak in the participation of women in the labor market in the months leading up to the start of the pandemic.
The pandemic has produced both an assignment for him and an assignment for her.
Goldin looked at men and women and college graduates and non-graduates, ages 20 to 54. Female college graduates in the workplace fell 2.7 percentage points; working college-educated men fell 2.6 percentage points. Unqualified working women decreased by 5.7 percentage points; non-college-educated males at work fell 5.5 percentage points.
“The big differences are related to education rather than gender, making it more similar to previous recessions,” Goldin writes.
With schools and daycare centers closed, women, far more than men, spent more time caring for children. For example, childcare (including schooling) by college-educated women who worked full-time, could work remotely, and had school-aged children in two-parent households more than doubled from 8.7 hours per week before the pandemic to 17.3 hours in the first months of the pandemic. The hours of care for custodial fathers in the same group increased during these early months, probably to about 15.8 per week, but decreased significantly as work resumed. Since the total number of childcare hours remained about as high, the number of childcare hours increased for women in fall 2020.
Goldin concludes her article by speculating on whether increased workplace flexibility will benefit women post-pandemic, provided schools and daycares remain open. Mothers may be able to take on more lucrative jobs that previously required considerable travel away from home. But, if the “new normal” reduces the time women spend face-to-face with colleagues and clients relative to men, they could pay a career price in the form of reduced bonuses, pay raises and less pay. promotions, she wrote.
Goldin, Goldin. 2022. “Understanding the economic impact of COVID-19 on women.” BPEA conference project, spring.