Women bore brunt of Covid’s social and economic impacts, says Red Cross

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A new research published Monday by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) showed that women have been disproportionately and uniquely affected by the devastating socioeconomic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the pandemic has had major economic impacts on every nation in the world, women were particularly affected by loss of income and education, rises in domestic violence, child marriage and trafficking, and responsibility for caring for children and sick relatives.

“In a crisis, it is always women who pay the highest price,” said Francesco Rocca, president of the IFRC. “It’s too long that we’ve been talking about this … it’s urgent.”

It was vital that the uneven socioeconomic impact of Covid was taken into account in recovery plans and could inform how the world tackled other crises, including the climate emergency, said the report’s co-author, Teresa Goncalves. “We can still recover better,” she said.

The survey examines how the pandemic collided with existing factors, including poverty, migration, conflict and extreme weather, bringing together detailed anecdotal reports from Red Cross national societies with data from the World Bank and the UN.

Of the 38 countries that took part, 31 of them, or 82%, identified women as disproportionately affected. Urban poor and migrants and refugees were also identified as particularly at-risk groups.

Although globally absolute job losses were higher for men due to their higher participation in the labour market overall, relative job losses were higher for women. Along with young people and migrants, women are over-represented in casual work and dominate sectors critically affected by the pandemic, such as retail, domestic work and tourism.

The report highlights several countries severely affected by the blow to tourism including Spain, the Philippines and Jamaica.

In Jamaica, as in many parts of the world, women make up a large proportion of people indirectly making a living from tourists. Female street vendors were hard hit, for example, said Kevin Douglas of the Jamaican Red Cross, especially at craft markets and in small villages reliant on a stream of visitors, such as Middle Quarters, a small village where women normally line the street competing to sell peppered shrimp.

Radhika Fernando, of the Philippine Red Cross, described a “shattered” tourism industry: “We are not getting anyone here.”

Women in the Philippines were expected to take on greater responsibility for caring for children and relatives, she said, as well as home-schooling responsibilities throughout what is thought to be the longest Covid school closure in the world.

This trend was echoed throughout the report, in richer and poorer countries. In Spain, for example, where among people accessing Red Cross services, 18% of women had lost their jobs compared with 14% of men, women also took on the bulk of unpaid labour at home. José Sánchez Espinosa, of the Spanish Red Cross, said: “We are working to change attitudes. We tried to convince men that they have to share the burden of the caring of the families.”

Almost all Red Cross societies surveyed, including Spain, reported increased demand for mental health support, with women often disproportionately represented.

Migrants, refugees and internally displaced people were uniquely affected by the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, the report also found, intersecting with the challenges facing women. (Source: The Guardian)

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