At Premise Data, we shifted our data collection efforts at the onset of the pandemic in order to track the impact of COVID-19. One of the most salient findings when disaggregating by gender, consistent across networks and countries, was that women are more concerned than men about the spread of COVID-19 in their community. Overall, we found that women have a more pessimistic view of their economic future than men (see Figure 1). This noticeable finding made us wonder why there is such a gender imbalance with respect to this concern, especially when the rate of infection is higher for men. In this article, we argue that women’s concerns are (unfortunately) economically rational, as past outbreaks have proven to generate larger and more long-lasting economic costs in women than men. Moreover, our data suggests that women are already paying a higher economic cost due to the current pandemic than their male counterparts; this disparity appears to be wider for women with children at home. Based on our COVID-19 bi-weekly survey, we further examine the current economic impact by gender, focusing on three Latin American countries: Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.
Figure 1: How concerned are you that your economic situation will be negatively impacted in the next 30 days as a result of a change in economic activity? (Brazil, Colombia and Mexico)
With currently over 3,000 respondents per country, we attempt to dig deeper into the issue of women’s concern over their economic future in Latin America. Figure 1 reveals that the percentage of women that are ‘extremely concerned’ about their financial stability is significantly higher than males (by 7.3%). In Figure 2 and Figure 3, broken down by gender and their current income state (Red: People that have been laid off or that saw a reduction in their income either through a reduction in hours, sales or wages, and Blue: People that haven’t seen any impact in their income) we explore the question: ‘Has your income been at all affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?’
The following graph (see Figure 2) takes into account all survey respondents in each country in order to solely observe the gender-based economic impact of this pandemic. The difference, however, is narrow (varying between ~1-4%), but it is important to note that Mexico has the largest gender gap (of 4%) in terms of economic costs of COVID-19 with ~80% of total women respondents saying they were either laid-off or lost income versus ~76% of men. However, we also analyzed whether having kids is a financial risk-factor for women during this pandemic.
Figure 2: Economic impact by country and gender for all survey respondents
Given that women make up around 59% of the informal economy in Latin America, which has come to a halt due to shelter-in-place policies, along with country-wide school closures, the current crisis is potentially exacerbating the financial strain women face at home. Furthermore, school closures have a high cost on women since they traditionally take on the child-rearing responsibilities within the family unit, limiting their ability to work whilst considering the already restricted economic opportunities.
The graph below (see Figure 3) displays only the group of individuals that have school-aged children living at home, indicating how women are more affected economically when this is the case. Based on the three countries explored in this study, the percentage of women living in households with children that experienced reductions in income or were laid-off is substantially higher than their male counterparts (the size gap is between 3.8% and 6.7%). Additionally, we observe how Mexico continues to be the country with the widest gender gap (6.7%), where the financial impact on women with children is the most severe. These findings are consistent with the aforementioned literature indicating that, without childcare services, women will be more highly affected than men due to their greater role in child-rearing within families.
Figure 3: Economic impact by country and gender for people with school-aged children
This article provides evidence that women in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico have indeed suffered a higher financial cost due to COVID-19. As the crisis continues, the economic gap can exacerbate gender disparities and increasingly so for women with children. This effect could be associated with the fact that the current crisis has a large impact on service occupations with high female employment shares, like hospitality and restaurants, as well as the temporary suspension of the informal sector. However, testing that hypothesis goes beyond the scope of this study. Nonetheless, our data suggests that the reduction of income or job loss, as well as child caregiving responsibilities, does create a large economic burden for women. Thus, it is imperative to stress the importance of taking a gendered approach when designing policies to counter the negative repercussions of the current pandemic.