THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON GENDER EQUALITY
The economic downturn caused by the current COVID-19 outbreak has substantial implications
for gender equality, both during the downturn and the subsequent recovery. Compared to
“regular” recessions, which affect men’s employment more severely than women’s employment,
the employment drop related to social distancing measures has a large impact on sectors with
high female employment shares. In addition, closures of schools and daycare centers have
massively increased child care needs, which has a particularly large impact on working mothers.
The effects of the crisis on working mothers are likely to be persistent, due to high returns to
experience in the labor market. Beyond the immediate crisis, there are opposing forces which
may ultimately promote gender equality in the labor market. First, businesses are rapidly adopting
flexible work arrangements, which are likely to persist. Second, there are also many fathers who
now have to take primary responsibility for child care, which may erode social norms that
currently lead to a lopsided distribution of the division of labor in house work and child care.