How the pandemic stalled the career of Working mothers

Khevna.P.Shah, INN/Bangalore

@Shahkhevna1, @Infodeaofficial

The global pandemic has been hard on the working class and many employees have lost their high-paid jobs because of the cost-effective workings of the companies. People, especially from the middle class, have found it difficult to make ends during the pandemic season. Amidst all this one sector or perhaps one category has been neglected, that is the working mothers.

The working mothers have seen much of the struggle during the pandemic since they have to keep up with their jobs and simultaneously look after their children and their education. And due to the latter issue, they often miss out on promotions, credits, and opportunities to work on big projects and assignments.

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According to various reports, women have been more negatively impacted than men throughout the pandemic, which also includes women experiencing a significant increase in domestic violence and rape, higher unemployment rates for women when compared to men, the heavier toll on mental health, and also greater exposure to the virus due to a predominance of women in the frontline healthcare workforce.

COVID-19 has increased pressure on the working mothers because of the balance to be maintained between their jobs and family. A survey conducted in May and June shows that one out of four women who became unemployed during the pandemic reported the job loss was due to a lack of childcare.

Even before the crisis started, women did nearly three times as much domestic work unpaid care as the men. The social distancing measures shut down of the schools, and overburdened health systems have put an increased demand on women and girls to cater to the basic survival needs of the family and care for the sick and the elderly. And with more than 1.5 billion students at home as of March 2020 due to the pandemic, existing gender norms have put the increased demand for unpaid childcare and domestic work on women.

 Working women are losing their jobs, especially during the pandemic simply because they are more likely to be burned by the unpaid care and domestic work and also the majority of the responsibilities of a single-parent household.

In India, where the working of women outside the household was always questioned, they are now fighting another unpredictable battle of the pandemic. One such instance is the story of Lasuben Shivlal Raval, a 70-year-old grandmother from Ahmedabad in India, who is a ‘headloader’ in one of the city’s biggest wholesale cloth markets for decades. Her work was always tough, but life became immeasurably harder for her when the Covid-19 struck and her business slumped. Not giving up and in her position as the leader of the local head loaders, she has helped coordinate assistance for her sister workers. The efforts of Lasuben and thousands of aagewans, or local women leaders, have been crucial in the current crisis and have set an example for various other working women. Embedded in their communities, they have been pivotal in providing health education and awareness about coronavirus, as well as linking people to basic medical care.

The impact of COVID-19 in India has been devastating, and the burden has not fallen equally. Women employed in the country’s informal economy have been hit disproportionately hard as millions of livelihoods have become even more precarious or evaporated completely. As the world looks beyond the current crisis to a post-pandemic future, it is essential to ensure lower-skilled workers like Lasuben are not left behind by the constantly evolving global labor market, and that they have the tools to achieve self-reliance.

The role of women in the economy has shifted over the last 100 years, and the systems have not evolved to support them. Because these conditions have been long-standing, the solutions put in place should not exclusively focus on short term COVID-19 recovery, but should also make long-lasting changes that aim to close the wage gap, gender inequality which improves working conditions and family leave options, and better align the childcare and school systems to the needs of working parents so mothers who want to work can do so. Policy needs to reflect that women have fundamental roles in both the workplace and in families and to support women in those roles.



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