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Women under the pandemic
Mar 10, 2021

Historically, pandemics have been an opportunity for societies to develop. They have accelerated their evolution in social and economic aspects that would otherwise have required a generation for widespread implementation.

Covid 19, the first great pandemic of the 21st century was no exception. Digitalisation and social awareness or sustainability, especially with regard to the environment, are being implemented with no possibility of turning back.

Nor, unfortunately, has the realisation that no systemic crisis, such as the current one, is neutral for women been an exception. The obvious global inequality between men and women has been exacerbated by the pandemic. The reason lies in the depth of its sociological and atavistic roots. Society is founded on roles and biases that hinder effective equality between men and women.

The decline in the position of women is therefore all the more worrying as we approach a global epochal change.

The situation of female vulnerability is certainly more striking in poor, low-income countries. per capita. In them, international observers highlight the current massive dropout of girls from school with the risk of forced marriages or prostitution crossing the threshold of poverty and ignominy.

In global terms, according to the UN report on the situation of women in 2020, the pandemic has set women back a generation on the road to equality in various geographical areas.

At the same time, as a sad consequence, the levels of domestic violence - poorly known insofar as they are hidden, except for murders - have grown exponentially. The causes of this criminality are to be found in the confinement of the victim with the aggressor, in anxiety and stress, as well as in the desperation of a sometimes unsustainable economic situation that can in no way justify violence.

Also striking is the unstoppable growth of the phenomenon of cyber-violence against women, which encourages situations of danger and insecurity as well as crimes against their sexual freedom.

This mix of factors is devastating for many women without any decisive public action to interdict them.

If we examine the situation by sector, we find that women have traditionally worked in the service sector in less qualified jobs: cleaners, stockers, assistants, housekeepers, are women's employment categories which, in relation to, for example, tourism and the hotel and catering industry, have been reduced by seventy per cent, highlighting the fragility of their contractual coverage.

From another perspective, there are essential sectors that are mainly made up of women: in clinics and hospitals, in basic administrative services or in the food distribution chain or supermarkets. From this perspective, women have maintained the health and basic activity that has allowed social peace. For this reason, they are subject to a greater risk of contagion and thus of transmission to their families and close friends, which leads to rejection by their environment and sometimes to their leaving their jobs because of the impossibility of teleworking.

Teleworking, a form of remote, off-site work, is by nature reserved for skilled jobs that do not require physical presence. In the last year its overall use has increased.

However, women's telework requires some reflection.

It is well known that women traditionally assume the care of children and the elderly, as well as other unpaid functions in the home - the so-called informal economy or female domestic work. The fact that women do not leave the house to go to work, because they carry out their functions from there, independently of other benefits, increases the multiplication of roles and hinders their emancipation and growth, an obvious risk of involution in professional women, increasing their psychological burden.

Under this pressure, the wage gap, which in certain sectors is as high as 30 percent compared to men in the same job, is also evident.

But the pandemic highlights not only current but also future inequalities.

The pension perspective and the reduction of contributions for working women are worth mentioning. At an early stage, from school onwards, the negative curve already originates in the education of girls and adolescents in households plunged into a deep economic crisis, in which, in addition, education becomes to a large extent non-attendance-based.

The need for distance communication equipment and videoconferencing are new barriers to equality, as women who start from a more disadvantaged position have less incentive to advance in their studies.

This very worrying situation requires decisive action by governments to support, through a systematic programme, women's independence and their entry into the labour market; by establishing measures that allow women to undertake, in an incentivised way, the creation of their own businesses; by adopting positive measures in the field of education; for example, by providing more scholarships for girls, especially those that allow them access to technological careers.

This is the only way to prevent the damage from becoming even more irreversible and to prevent so many women, under the pandemic, from seeing their most basic rights and personal growth unjustly curtailed.

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