That women were gravely affected in terms of job opportunities and pay cuts amid the COVID-19 pandemic have been reiterated several times by many studies. Now a study by consulting firm Dalberg also states that women in low-income households in India consumed less food too, apart from losing more jobs as compared to men.
The study found that women are also taking longer to re-enter the workforce after the first wave last year. A tenth of the women surveyed said that they ate less or ran out of food, while 16 per cent had limited or no access to menstrual pads. More than 33 per cent said they have no access to contraceptives as the pandemic disrupted public health outreach programmes. The Dalberg report covered the March-October period last year.
Swetha Totapally, partner, Dalberg Advisors and the author of the report said, “What we’re hearing from grassroots organizations is that the second wave has compounded the effects that we were seeing in the first wave in multiple ways.”
The study surveyed 15,000 women and 2,300 men from low-income households in 10 Indian cities and found out that women formed only 24 per cent of the workforce before the pandemic but accounted for 28 per cent of the ones who lost their jobs. As many as 43 per cent are yet to recover their paid work.
When it came to chores, 47 per cent of women as compared to 43 per cent of men said that they saw an increase in workload. Moreover 41 per cent women as compared to 37 per cent men saw an increase in unpaid care work. Additionally, 27 per cent women said that they got less rest as compared to 18 per cent men.
Higher unpaid work burden also indicates reduced participation in the formal work force, the report stated. “We believe that this increase in women’s household burden will make it difficult for them to re-enter the workforce, leading to economic consequences that may outlast the pandemic,” it said.
The Dalberg survey said that Muslim women, migrant women, single women, separated or divorced women were the hardest hit.
According to Totapally, the society will pay a heavy price if the pandemic pushes more women out of the workforce, pushes more families into debt and poverty and forces more girls to drop out of school, possibly triggering more child marriages.
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