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The pandemic is reversing economic progress made by women

The gendered economic impact of COVID-19 risks setting women back

Have you ever thought that there is a possibility our society might revert back to following traditional family roles where mothers stay at home and take care of their children? Well, believe it or not, the pandemic has gradually re-introduced these gender-based structures.

According to a recent survey conducted by Pollaro Strategic Insight, one in three women are either quitting or have considered quitting their jobs so they can care for their children during the pandemic. Many mothers have a difficult time juggling their work and managing their family life which can create pressure on them to prioritize one over the other.

This is understandable because numerous schools and daycares shut down for the past few months, leaving no other option but for children to stay at home. Especially, when it comes to younger children, women tend to be the ones to stay home and watch the children since they have nowhere to leave their children. Now, with the online delivery of schooling, kids are at home and need someone to take care of them. During this pandemic, mothers have stepped up to the challenge of investing more time towards their children compared to fathers. Without schools and daycares, the responsibility of childrearing tends to fall to mothers which forces them to not return to work, even if they would like to.

How does this impact our society? The survey statistics show there has been a drastic decrease of women in the workforce. The term “she-cession” has been coined to indicate the disproportionate impact on women by the economic downturn this year. With Canadian women making up about 50 per cent of the workforce, it will be extremely difficult to end the recession if more women choose to cut down on their work hours or not return to work. RBC Economics reports that participation of women in the Canadian workforce has dropped to 55 per cent during the first few months of the pandemic.

As a woman who is hoping to enter the nursing profession during this recession, after I graduate, I am concerned about how the drastic decrease in women in this field would result in short-staffing, increased workload, and high burnout rates. These factors would not only demotivate new nurses entering into this profession, but would also lead to more nurses experiencing job dissatisfaction. I can only imagine how stressful it must have been for female nurses to cope with their job and taking care of children during the pandemic.

Women make up the majority in the nursing profession and many of them are mothers who have to balance their work-lives with their personal-lives. In addition to the level of stress that nurses face in the workplace, they also have to deal with taking care of their children as well as keeping their family safe. This puts nurses into a dilemma of focusing on their career or taking care of their children. Unfortunately, women face this dilemma in many professions, where they may feel the need to quit due to daily stressors faced at home.

A huge factor that would encourage women to return back to work would be accessibility to child-care services. Programs such as school outreach, after-school care, and tutoring centres can help share the responsibility of providing care for children. We can achieve this through expanding these programs within our community and also advocating for the affordability of these services. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) plans to tackle this problem by advocating for the expansion of child care services and addressing the shortage of early childhood educators. OCC also aims at promoting loans, scholarships, and child care subsidies for women to help provide resources required to support their children. Furthermore, companies should explore implementing child care programs within the workplace, which would gain willingness among women to return to work. This would ensure that women are spending enough time with their children without quitting their job. 

Although implementing these strategies might take awhile, we as a community should recognize the issues that mothers face during this pandemic and advocate for alternatives such as expanding child care services, providing online tutoring programs for children, or encouraging fathers to adequately share the responsibility. With these strategies in place, we could help relieve stress that women face and reintegrate them back into the workforce, while addressing the gender inequality that has developed during this recession.

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