Most of what we know about the coronavirus is speculation. While we really don’t know much about this pandemic, one very important speculation that the prevalent social factors have introduced is – Gender gap in vulnerability to coronavirus. According to CNN, the COVID-19 seems to affect health care workers more despite them being young and globally, 70 percent of health workers are women. Let’s look at how this pandemic may influence women’s lives in the future.

Key Takeaways

  • According to CNN, the COVID-19 hits the healthcare workers harder.
  • According to a World Health Organization report, around 88.9 percent of nurses and midwives in India are women. Globally, 70 percent of health care workers are women.
  • Coronavirus outbreak was identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and by February 2020, more than 3,000 health workers in China had contracted the disease.
  • Owing to economic uncertainty after coronavirus, informal and part-time jobs stand at the forefront of being suspended. And a major chunk of these jobs are occupied by women. 

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation And Development, jobs created during and after an economic crisis mostly target men, and this is where women find it difficult to spring back.

Why Women Nurses Are More Vulnerable To The Virus

According to the WHO, more than 50 percent of SARS cases in the early 2000s occurred in women. And of these cases, 21 percent occurred in health workers. As far as COVID-19 is concerned, in Italy, 8.3 percent of total cases occurred in the health workers and in China, 3,000 health workers were affected. The fact that coronavirus is more likely to affect women stands on the premise that around 70 percent of health care workers across the globe are women.

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When it comes to treating a patient, nurses stand at the front line, from drawing blood to collecting specimens. Their exposure to the patient is much more than the doctor, and since a majority of nurses are women, this increases their vulnerability to the virus. In fact, in the Washington State, the nursing homes have been the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Economic Uncertainty And Loss Of Job

Social distancing is the most effective way of reducing the chances of virus spread. However, this comes at an economic cost. As the world is dealing with a lockdown situation, layoffs are expected, including cancellation of recent job offers. And this has a disproportionately negative impact on women. Owing to economic uncertainty, informal and part-time jobs stand at the forefront of jobs that are most likely of being suspended. And a major chunk of these jobs is occupied by women.

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According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation And Development, jobs created during and after an economic crisis mostly target men, and this is where women find it difficult to spring back. Also, since consumption plummets during an economic crisis, both export and import are heavily impacted. Women form 60 to 80 percent of export manufacturing workers in developing countries and hence, till the revival of the economy, they’re mostly left jobless.

Women Are Primary Caregivers

The role that women play in society – the caregivers, places them in much more danger of contracting the virus than anyone else. According to a 2007 report by the World Health Organization, Typical gender roles can “influence where men and women spend their time, and the infectious agents they come into contact with, as well as the nature of exposure, its frequency and its intensity.”

A virus most commonly spreads through contact, and women being the primary caregivers, come in contact with every member of the family, more frequently than others. When schools and offices are suspended for a while, women’s vulnerability to the virus is compounded. Even the burden of domestic chores increases for a woman in a lockdown situation in India. This is the reason why the rate of transmission in the household is higher than that in the hospitals, an Ebola virus study conducted in 2017 substantiates.

Also Read: Compassion in times of coronavirus: Shift from ‘I’ to ‘We’

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