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Covid pandemic disproportionately hurting women, UN warns


It comes one day after the international body warned that the pandemic is driving further violence against refugee, displaced and stateless women and girls.

Thursday’s “Whose Time to Care?” report, from UN Women, found that, while both women and men have taken on extra unpaid domestic work throughout the pandemic, women face a greater burden of care.

UN Women analyzed available data in 38 countries to collect the figures on unpaid work, and rolled out surveys in nearly 50 countries, using a variety of phone and online methods.

It found women were taking on more household tasks than men throughout the pandemic, and were more likely to leave the workforce.

Some 60% of women and 54% of men reported that they had increased the amount of time spent on unpaid domestic work since the pandemic began, the report found.

But women reported to have taken on a greater intensity of extra domestic chores — and for longer periods — than the men did.

The women questioned for the report estimated they had taken on an additional 5.2 hours of childcare each week, while the men reported an additional 3.5 hours spent on childcare.

This indicated that, “in most countries, women are spending 30+ hours per week solely on childcare — almost equivalent to the average time spent at a full-time job per week,” the report said.

Women leaving the workforce

UN Women said that a greater number of women had left the workforce throughout the pandemic, possibly as a result of their increased domestic workload.

At the end of the second quarter of 2020, there were 1.7 times as many women as men outside the labor force (321 million women compared to 182 million men), according to the UN’s analysis of labor market data in 55 high and middle-income countries, with the greatest disparities in Latin America.

Even before the pandemic, the UN estimated that women already took on three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men, amounting collectively to billions of hours per day.

The International Labor Organization, meanwhile, estimates that 16.4 billion hours are spent on unpaid care work daily — equivalent of two billion people working eight hours unpaid, every day.

Rohingya refugees collect water in Kutupalong refugee camp, in Ukhia on October 5.

An increase in violence and exploitation

The “Whose Time to Care?” report came just one day after the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned the pandemic was also driving further violence against refugee, displaced and stateless women and girls.

“We are receiving alarming reports of sharp increases in the risks of gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence, trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child marriages,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in a statement on Wednesday.

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“Jobs have been lost, tensions are rising, intimate partner violence is escalating, livelihood opportunities are scarce and movement restrictions are making it difficult for survivors to report abuse and seek help,” Grandi added.

The UNHCR said an increase in gender-based violence had been reported in at least 27 countries, and the sale or exchange of sex as an economic coping mechanism had also been reported in at least 20 countries.

The organization said it was “alarmed” by an increased risk of child and forced marriages, which are being resorted to as a coping strategy by displaced families buckling under socio-economic pressures.

Many countries experiencing conflict or displacement already have some of the world’s highest rates of these incidents, the press release added.

The UNHCR is urging donor support to help “preserve and boost essential prevention and response services,” which can be crucial especially during Covid-19 lockdowns, it added.

CNN’s Sara Spary contributed to this report.


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