Women particularly affected by COVID-19

EUROFOUND's brief report reveals a particular burden of the crisis on women.

The EUROFOUND Policy Brief (photo: EUROFOUND)

EUROFOUND has prepared a new report on behalf of the European Commission in the framework of the new Gender Equality Strategy 2020 - 2025.

This policy brief was published on 9 December 2020. Although most of the research was conducted before the outbreak of COVID-19, the policy brief contains interesting findings on the unequal impact of the crisis among men and women.

With the latest policy brief, the agency makes clear that action is a social as well as an economic imperative. EUROFOUND draws attention to the greater risk faced by women - especially young women and working mothers (read also EZA/Magazine 2/2020).

The policy brief begins by noting that the European Union has made significant improvements in gender equality in recent decades and is a world leader in achieving equal rights and opportunities for women. Yet gender inequality persists in labour markets, employment, quality of life and working conditions.

Of the many findings, these are the key messages:

  • The gender employment gap costs Europe more than €320 billion (2018)
  • 17.1% of female pensioners were at risk of poverty in the EU in 2019, compared to 13.1% of male pensioners.
  • In 2019, 67.2% of women (20-64 years) are in employment, compared to 78.9% of men.
  • Women make up 48% of the workforce, account for 58% of minimum wage earners and 62% of workers earning significantly less than the minimum wage.
  • Higher levies as a result of COVID-19 measures affect "interactive service work" involving physical interaction between workers and customers - tourism, retail, hospitality and aviation - and women make up 61% of workers doing this type of work.
  • 4% of women became unemployed compared to 1% of men
  • Deterioration in work-life balance: family responsibilities prevented more women (24%) than men (13%) from devoting the time they wanted to their work.

The policy brief contains a variety of findings and figures that show the reality between women and men. It also gives an overview of the differences between EU countries.

The policy brief is published as: Eurofound (2020), Women and labour market equality: Has COVID-19 rolled back recent gains? Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. You can download and read it here.

EUROFOUND is the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. It is a tripartite EU agency that provides knowledge to help develop better social, employment and labour policies.