The Strategist

Study: Coronavirus economic shock increased gender gap in employment

08/19/2020 - 10:45

The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic in developed countries has worsened the position of women in the labor market more than that of men. Thus, it differs from the recessions of previous years, in which the decline in employment went the opposite way.

The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic could affect the economic situation of women more than that of men, says a group of American and European researchers.

The researchers analyzed the position of men and women in the labor market during the current and previous periods of the recession in the United States.

Despite the appearance of hundreds of works on similar topics since May 2020, their findings are important primarily for the task set: the overwhelming majority of researchers so far assess the "coronavirus" crisis in the same row as the usual recession in the downward phase of the business cycle. In this case, however, the task was to identify the features of the crisis, proceeding from the assumption that gender differences in employment would affect the structure of unemployment and the specific mechanisms of the labor market reaction to an exogenous shock. Authors' data cover US labor market statistics through May 2020.

As follows from the paper, in all economic crises in the United States from 1975 to 2009, the increase in unemployment among men was higher than among women. The difference between male and female unemployment could be from 0.1 to 1.9 percentage points.

During the same crisis, as the calculations of the authors of the study show, unemployment among women was 2.9% higher than that of men.

A number of other indicators also indicate a more serious deterioration in the position of women. Thus, the employment rate of women from February to June 2020 decreased by 17.8 percentage points, while for men this figure is only 15.8. The gender gap in the number of hours worked was even wider. From February to May, the average working time for women decreased by 27%, while for men only by 20%.

The authors' general conclusion is that this type of labor market shock will presumably continue to increase gender inequality, in contrast to the “usual crisis” (recession in the business cycle), in which the expected decrease in the gap between the wages of men and women is smaller. According to calculations of the researchers, the consequences of the coronavirus shock in this regard in the United States will be overcome within 18 years, that is, in fact, within the lifetime of a generation, although most of the newly created inequality will be eliminated in two to three years.


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