Men more affected by Covid-19 employment loss, report finds

Women more likely to work in essential roles in healthcare and retail during pandemic

Men have been more affected by employment loss due to Covid-19 lockdowns than women, according to a new working paper by the National Economic & Social Council (NESC).

The report found that more Irish men than women have received emergency wage support payments during the Covid-19 lockdowns. However, women were more likely to be placed on the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP), while men were more often put on the temporary wage subsidy scheme (TWSS).

This disparity could have “implications for future employment”, as people on the TWSS retain a link with their employer, which should make it easier to return to work than those on the PUP, argued Dr Anne-Marie McGauran, one of the author’s of the working paper.

The NESC has compiled findings from a number of reports to paint an overall picture of the gender impacts of Covid-19 in Ireland.


Worst-hit sectors

The construction, accommodation and food services, and wholesale and retail sectors were worst hit by the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. As men make up 87 per cent of construction workers, their employment has been disproportionately affected by the closures of the sector. Women comprise slightly more than 50 per cent of the workers in the other two sectors most affected by lockdowns. Due to the industries in which they tend to work, the employment of Eastern European women has been particularly negatively affected compared to that of other groups during the pandemic, the report states.

Women are more likely than men to work in essential roles during the pandemic, partly due to the concentration of women in retail and health sector employment. African and Asian people in Ireland also have higher rates of infection as they are over-represented in high-contact healthcare roles. Figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE) show approximately 52 per cent of all cases were women, but the death rate is higher for men.

More women were able to work from home during the spring 2020 lockdown, although women were more likely to report difficulties with home working, which can be linked to domestic interruptions. The report bolstered anecdotal evidence that women were more likely to be affected by the lack of childcare or education provision during the spring 2020 lockdown as they tended to take on a greater share of caring duties.

Domestic abuse

The report notes that domestic abuse poses a particular risk for marginalised groups, such as women who are disabled, Travellers and migrant women. Citing trends that pre-date the pandemic, the report notes that ethnic minority women made up five per cent of the population in 2006, but 13 per cent of people seeking help for domestic violence. Migrant women face greater barriers to reporting abuse due to being more likely to be economically dependent, isolated from support systems, and sometimes being dependent on their abuser for their legal status. Although just 0.5 per cent of all women aged 15 and over, Traveller women were 15 per cent of domestic violence service users before the pandemic.

Globally, the proportion of women involved in decision-making on Covid-19 is low, the report notes. Eighty-three per cent of 115 national taskforces focused on managing the pandemic have mainly male membership, and only four per cent are gender balanced. With women comprising 13 of its 31 members, Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency Team has a much better gender balance than the international average, the report says. However, with men making up the entire Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19, the representation of female politicians in pandemic decision making “remains low”.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter