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Women hit harder by job losses during Covid-19 pandemic

Nearly three times more women will lose their jobs compared to men as the effects of Covid-19 ravage industries across the world, a study by Citi has revealed.
Nearly three times more women will lose their jobs compared to men as the effects of Covid-19 ravage industries across the world, a study by Citi has revealed. FILE PHOTO | COURTESY 
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Nearly three times more women will lose their jobs compared to men as the effects of Covid-19 ravage industries across the world, a study by Citi has revealed.

According to Citi’s report, of the 44 million employees that could ultimately lose their jobs, approximately 31 million will be women. An estimated 220 million women across the world are in sectors vulnerable to job losses due to Covid-19.

“The difference has to do with the sectors affected most by Covid-19. Women are over-represented in six sectors that are the most vulnerable to Covid-19 layoffs. Women are also more likely to be caretakers both of children and adult dependents and take on more unpaid work than men,” says Citi.

“The retail, professional and businesses services, financial services, education and health, leisure and hospitality and government sectors, where women are most likely to work, are the most likely to shed the greatest number of women from payrolls.”

Citi indicates that generally, women occupy 75 percent or more of the jobs in the personal care, healthcare, and clerical professions and roughly 70 percent in the education sector.

“The risk of unemployment in a post-Covid-19 world is higher for females versus males, which could also lead to higher rates of poverty for females,” says Citi.

In Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ Survey on Socio economic Impact of Covid-19 on Households report, more than half (51.2 percent) of women respondents were unemployed in the seven days preceding the survey. This is in comparison to the 34.7 percent of men who were unemployed indicating that 65.5 percent of men were accounted for in the labour force.

“Almost half of the respondents who were absent from work reported that it was due to lockout or stay-away instructions as guided by the government and/or employers. Other reasons include temporary slack, and temporary layoff or work reduction,” read the KNBS survey.

Some nine out of 10 of the people who reported that they were absent from work were unsure about when they would be returning.

“Meanwhile, lingering challenges that hampered female labour force participation before the coronavirus may be further exacerbated by the pandemic. Returning to work and/or seeking employment may be inhibited as the responsibility of caring for family members stricken with the virus, and/or caring for the roughly 1.5 billion children subject to school closures may largely fall to women. Female job cuts in six key sectors might slash $1 trillion from global gross domestic product (GDP), or 1.2 percent from global growth,” read Citi’s report.

In Kenya, latest data shows the number of people out of active labour force increased by 5.1 percent (or 435,369 people) to 8.53 million in the first quarter of this year, worsening the dependency ratio. In the previous quarter, 8.09 million people were not in the active labour force.

The number of Kenyans between the ages of 20 and 34 years, who are in employment or running a business, dropped 9.89 percent to 7.02 million.

This is expected to further widen gender income parity in Kenya and globally. Pre-Covid-19, Kenya had performed worse in the various categories of Gender Gap Index including economic participation opportunity and education attainment.

According to Citi, to help mitigate job, and global GDP losses, decision-makers must take women into account in policies intended to address Covid-19 economic disruptions. Many policy prescriptions pre-date the pandemic, and are even more unsuitable now.

The strain in Kenyan households has also resulted in an increase in the cases of sexual and domestic violence. With restricted movement and curfews in place, there has been a rise in violence where women and girls are the main victims.

In an article published in the Daily Nation, data from the national gender helpline 1195 shows that sexual violence, including defilement, physical assault, abduction and neglect of children, as well psychological torture went up significantly since the control measures were instituted.

There were a few men who reported being subjected to psychological torture and physical violence by their partners.

In April, for instance, 461 reports of sexual and gender-based violence were made to the 24-hour hotline compared to 115 in March.

The rise in violence fortifies Citi’s push for policies such as protection of women from gender-based violence, pay equity, steering women towards “frontier” and high-wage sectors and passing laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, retirement benefits, taxation and pay.

Sectors such as cloud computing, engineering, data and AI, product development and sales which make up some of the frontier sectors have a low female representation. This ranges from 12 percent, 15 percent, 26 percent, 35 percent and 37 percent respectively.

The larger proportion of women is found in content production and people and culture roles, which, are currently struggling under the pandemic.

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