More work, less care & it's still gendered

Men may not realise it, but they have been a social experiment for the duration of COVID-19. 
With nearly everyone forced to work from home – including the many men who were never as invested in flexible working as women – researchers can observe the behaviours of both genders with the restraints imposed by a physical workplace removed.  Surely things would become more equal with men and women now enjoying the flexibility of working from home in roughly equivalent numbers?
The early results from an equality perspective are worth reviewing. It appears that once again, men are well ahead when it comes to banking the benefits from the nation working from home according to the provisional results from the survey 'Work and Care in the time of COVID-19' being undertaken by Prof Lyn Craig at the University of Melbourne. 

The results so far indicate that for households with children, social isolation and school closures have created an extra six hours every day spent on caring for or supervising them. Of those six hours, the survey's responses suggest that for heterosexual nuclear families, around four hours are being done by women, and two by their male partners.

In an insightful and satirical opinion piece written for the ABC on Sunday 24 May 2020, Annabel Crabb writes:

“…the question of whether lockdown has been a blessed opportunity for quiet work and contemplation in the home office or a nerve-jangling exercise in multi-tasking at the kitchen table more or less necessitating a 5pm glass of wine does appear to be a gendered one…”

Crabb quotes Prof. Craig as saying that from a researcher's point of view, the COVID-19 crisis was a chance to observe how men would behave once they were able to work flexibly or from home, free from the constraints that traditional workplaces may impose on men in caring roles.

"So far, we're not seeing that if you take away the constraints on men from the workplace that it just suddenly becomes more equal," she says. "There's something going on, but it's not just the structure. They certainly are participating more, but it's not rewriting the gender relativities," Prof Craigs said,

The results echo those of the research paper by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency analysing the impacts of COVID-19 through a gendered lens.  It writes that preliminary research and emerging data show that women are likely to be affected in particular ways by this global pandemic:

Specifically, women are likely to increase time spent on caring responsibilities; they represent the majority of the healthcare workforce, are more likely to care for sick family members at home and take on education-related responsibilities while children are home from school.

This increase in caring responsibilities can heighten feelings of stress and limit women’s economic opportunities. Early evidence related to job loss and the economic impacts of COVID-19 suggest that women are facing increased economic insecurity. Financial hardship coupled with more time spent at home due to social distancing and isolation measures is placing individuals at risk of domestic violence.”

The article by Crabb identifies the following areas for concern:

Academia: Freed from teaching, male academics are finding more time to write for scientific journals, with numbers of articles from women declining due to caring responsibilities not shared by men with stay at home partners. Publication is a key route to promotion and tenure.

Running for public office: In October, Victoria will be the first state to attempt a round of local government elections in the COVID-19 recovery. There has been a collapse of interest from female candidates.

Financial security: More than half of the victims of the COVID-19 shutdown are women, with females over-represented in the casual workforce and hardest hit sectors, such as hospitality and retail.

Personal security: Domestic violence numbers have escalated during the shut-down, with the great majority of victims being women.

Mental health:  High stress levels reported by 35% of women - up from 17% pre COVID-19. Men are at 22% compared with 13% pre COVID-19.

Reference Articles

ABC Online - Coronavirus has left Australia women anxious, overworked, insecure - and worse off than men again
WGEA reserach paper 'Gendered Impact of COVID-19'
Latest newsRSS