Covid-19 knows no borders, nor countries, nor ages, although it especially affects older people. But it does know gender. From the figures released so far we can conclude that the pandemic is hitting men especially hard.
The trend was observed first in China, the origin of the pandemic, and has been repeated in European countries such as Italy and Spain.
Data reveals that although the virus can affect both men and women in the same way, men have a somewhat higher mortality rate. But, as pointed out by different organisations, the social impact is going to seriously affect women.
Greater social impact on women, why?
Of course, there is a higher percentage of women in the field of health and care; which places them on the front line in terms of risk of infection and spread of the virus.
In many countries, women are the majority of paid health personnel and are also the main paid and unpaid social carers and caregivers.
In the same way, the measures imposed by the majority of governments, such as the closure of nursery schools, primary schools, secondary schools and universities, and home confinement, also affect women more.
In times of confinement, the care of children and the elderly at home falls especially on the shoulders of women.
Despite the predominance of women in the health-related job market, managerial and decision-making positions in the health and political systems are mostly held by men.
Sexist violence during confinement
Another important problem that affects many women under confinement is the risk of sexist violence. Not being able to leave their house, any pressure and stress on the victim and aggressor increases, which means that cases of abuse can rise at a time when victims have fewer tools with which to defend themselves and are in situations of considerable vulnerability.
Women who are isolated due to being under confinement find it difficult or simply impossible to communicate and report assaults.
The Equality Ministry of Spain has promoted a Contingency Plan against sexist violence due to the coronavirus crisis with the aim of minimising the vulnerabilities of victims under confinement that is to be applauded.
Post-crisis social inequalities
The Covid-19 crisis, like all health and social crises, affects men and women differently. The expected economic and social consequences of the crisis will exacerbate pre-existing inequalities.
According to data presented by Spain’s Ministry of Labour, Migration and Social Security in the report “Women in the labour market, female pensioners and migrant women in the 21st century”, the unemployment rate is higher for women, women’s jobs are more precarious, and it is also women who receive lower wages and have worse contractual conditions.
It must be emphasised that, as a consequence of these inequalities, when it comes to receiving contributory economic benefits for unemployment or pensions, women will receive less.
Hundreds of people are losing their jobs, their income, their savings, and their ability to survive. Women will suffer more.
Opportunity in times of crisis, for whom?
It is often said that in every crisis, opportunity knocks. But opportunity only knocks for those to whom they are accessible.
Women make up the last safety net for the family and society, but they are also the weakest link in the chain of social protection. Everyday heroines are often forgotten when decisions are being made.
In fact, it is precisely at times like these that the threat of social fracture or collapse exacerbates structural inequalities.
There are no neutral solutions in the health and social response to the pandemic, nor in the economic measures designed to tackle its consequences.
In this context, it is essential when making political decisions to have the courage to move the agenda on gender equality forward. This would encourage ways of overcoming the situation that are fairer and leave us better equipped to overcome future crises.
Glória Alves, Deputy Coordinator of the component for Cooperation between Justice Systems