Covid-19 has significantly set back women’s economic prospects, report finds

Respondents to Rethink Ireland survey say need to provide childcare in padnemic halted own progress

Women’s economic prospects have suffered a significant setback due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report by a social innovation group.

The document, based on testimonies from participants in programmes supported by Rethink Ireland’s Mná na hÉireann (Women of Ireland) fund, states that the pandemic has had a marked impact on women’s jobs, incomes and responsibilities in the home.

Respondents stated that increased caring responsibilities because of pandemic restrictions had limited their personal and professional development.

Hospital Report

With childcare provision hampered during lockdowns, women described the challenge of progressing their education while caring for their families.


The report quoted a number of mothers who had been hoping to return to work only for the pandemic to derail their plans.

One single mother and student said securing a job last year was “out of the question” as childcare needs could not be met during the pandemic.

‘Nearly too late’

Many women found that the bulk of caring responsibilities fell to them during this time, which brought about increased mental health challenges.

“I have been busy minding everyone else and only think of myself when it’s nearly too late,” said on respondent.

Created by Rethink Ireland, in partnership with Bank of America and the Department of Rural and Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund, the Mná na hÉireann fund supports six charities and social enterprises geared towards enhancing women’s economic mobility. These are Dress for Success; An Cosán; Transgender Equality Network Ireland; Irish Refugee Council; Westmeath Community Development, and Equal Ireland.

Many of the respondents employment programmes were developed for a different job landscape, when hospitality and retail were buoyant sectors, the report states.

A lot of these projects have had to shift focus towards sectors currently in demand such as health and personal care services. Projects were also challenged in their push to help participants improve their digital literacy during the pandemic, particularly for women in direct provision who did not have access to the required technology.


The report recommends the introduction of targeted measures to help women reskill, while it says the Government should also address the economic inequalities experienced by women living on the margins of society.

Rethink Ireland is also calling for a diverse representation of women to be “present at all tables where decisions regarding social and economic policy” are made. Gender and equality budgeting should be embedded in all economic decision making, the report recommends.

Deirdre Mortell, chief executive of Rethink Ireland, said the pandemic had “revealed and compounded the economic and social inequalities” faced by women, particularly those from minority groups and disadvantaged communities.

“As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, now is an ideal time for us as a society to reaffirm our commitment to promoting women’s economic mobility as part of wider equality agendas,” she added.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter