The closure of schools in a pandemic affected the participation of women in the labor market

“We have a society in a very upset mood. I did not realize the magnitude of the phenomenon in people who were overextended by the pandemic. For example, women mothers who had to face enormous burdens, dividing themselves between work and their children, who also could not attend school. The work and effort they made was immense, “said President Alberto Fernández in an interview with the Télam agency released yesterday. Indeed, women with minors in charge were one of the groups most affected by the shock of the pandemic and there are indicators that allow you to notice it.

According to an analysis carried out by the economist Milagros Gismondi, economist and candidate for legislator of the City of Buenos Aires of Together for Change, based on the microdata of the Permanent Household Survey (EPH) of the Indec, the reopening of schools had an impact on the economic autonomy of women mothers. If the first quarter of 2021 is compared with the second, it can be seen that in the City of Buenos Aires, where face-to-face classes were resumed on February 17, the activity rate of women mothers increased: it went from 54% to 56 %. In Greater Buenos Aires, where educational establishments remained closed until August, the indicator had the opposite evolution: it fell from 51% to 50%.

“The main reason seems to be the return to presence in CABA, which showed a marked difference in the number of school days in the second quarter and allowed mothers to return to the labor market,” Gismondi analyzed. Paraphrasing the Nobel laureate in economics Esther Duflo, she pointed out that “closing schools is a direct tax on women.”

Other official data give support to this crossing of variables. According to an impact study carried out by the Indec between August and October 2020, 66% of households with children and adolescents of school age increased the time dedicated to school support tasks and 65.5% increased the time dedicated to housework. 64% of those households declared that these tasks were carried out only by women or mostly by them.

According to the latest Global Gender Gap Report 2021, published annually by the World Economic Forum, In just one year, the pandemic postponed the closing of gender gaps for 36 years, time that is added to the 99 years that the same report already marked in 2020. This means that there would be 135 years to go before reaching parity between men and women. “Another generation of women will have to keep waiting,” concludes the report, which measures gaps in economic and political participation, access to health and education, among other variables, around the world.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) also concluded that Latin America went back a decade in terms of women’s economic participation. The move to virtuality of schools and gardens, the closure of clubs, care spaces, as well as restrictions on mobility had effects on households and, especially, on women who are in charge of people.

As a recent report by the National Directorate of Economy, Equality and Gender of the Ministry of Economy, under Mercedes D’Alessandro, points out, gender inequality is a structural problem. In Argentina, women have a lower participation in the labor market, higher levels of informality, receive lower incomes and register higher levels of unemployment than their male counterparts. Those under 30 years of age are the ones that face the most obstacles, their unemployment levels are double those of the total population. One of the central reasons for these inequalities is the asymmetric distribution of unpaid domestic and care tasks. 75.7% of unpaid work is carried out by women, who dedicate an average of 6.4 hours a day to these tasks; almost an extra workday.

“In Argentina the possession of sons and daughters is penalized,” he told elDiarioAR Gala Díaz Langou, executive director of Cippec, after the publication of the poverty data that closed 2020, which showed that almost 6 out of every 10 children lived in this situation. As detailed, the high indicator of child poverty responds to a first mathematical explanation – having minors in charge implies dividing the same income among more people – but, above all, to the fact that in Argentina the time of care and upbringing falls fundamentally on the families, who stop investing that time in the job market.

This scenario was already defined before the pandemic due to the weakness of public policies to “defamiliarize” care, such as the creation of more spaces for children in early childhood, the expansion of the scope of the double shift in the educational system, offer of clubs and other recreational activities. On this basis, the emergence of Covid-19 and the closure of existing spaces generated a multiplication of the time that families spend with their children. “And when I say families, I say above all women, which also has an effect on widening gender gaps “, said Díaz Langou.


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The closure of schools in a pandemic affected the participation of women in the labor market

Hank Gilbert