Issues Facing Women During the Pandemic

covid issues (1)

Women’s Centres across Nova Scotia continue to provide services to women to the best of our abilities. This includes bringing issues of injustice or disproportionate impact to the attention of our municipal, provincial and federal decision-makers.

The pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women has resulted in the limited gains that were made by women over recent decades to quickly roll backwards.

We are observing a widening economic gender gap:

  • Women were already more significantly affected by economic strain than men prior to the pandemic; women are not being called back to work and some jobs previously held by women have been filled by men.
  • When possible women are working from home.
  • Children under the age of 10-12, and those with special needs, who are home from school still require care/supervision. Many women can only return to work once children start school because their lower wages make it impossible to pay childcare in order to work outside the home.
  • Schools closed and/or providing distance learning resulted in women trying to work from home WHILE caregiving and/or helping their school-age children with school work.
  • Many women are caregiving children or elders at the same time as they work from home.
  • Since the pandemic women have experienced an increase in responsibilities of unpaid labour (including housework and home-schooling). The lateness and open-endedness of the plan to reopen schools has made it next to impossible for women to plan for their own return to work.
  • Co-parenting with divorced families, often resulted in women becoming full-time single parents rather than shared caregiving due to children staying in one household at government/public health’s request.

There is a clear need for Universal Childcare in order to level the field for women in the workforce, the pandemic has brought this issue back to the forefront. Accessing childcare has already been a challenge in most Nova Scotia communities even prior to the pandemic.

Food security has been a challenge for women, especially single parents who did not have someone to provide childcare while picking up groceries. When only one person per household was allowed entry into stores, this made it difficult for single parents of young children to shop for necessities. While curbside pickup became increasingly available as the time continued, those who did not have transportation of their own were unable to pick up groceries due to the already limited transit and taxi services in rural communities being less available (if at all).

Children who received food assistance at schools were no longer accessing these supports, and programs to bridge the gap were slow to respond.

Basic income has been a recommendation by groups who work with vulnerable populations in Canada for decades. The measures put in place in response to the pandemic have shown that not only is a basic income possible to offer Canadians, but it seems that the pandemic response would have been far less complex and possibly even less costly if we already had a basic livable income guaranteed for all Canadians.

A higher proportion of women are also employed in industries most significantly impacted by isolation measures – with high lay-offs in retail and hospitality, etc.

The CERBs impact on IA is still undefined; we have also seen penal efforts beginning to ramp up by the federal government to clamp down on those accessing CERB who may not have been eligible. This will have a disproportionate impact on women (who traditionally hold more of the lower-paid jobs, to begin with), causing increased stress & anxiety, which has a negative impact on mental health.

Women need paid sick days when needing to stay home due to COVID symptoms (rarely have in low-paying jobs), otherwise, they face the additional economic strain, or end up attending work when counter to public health guidelines.

Women’s hygiene products are cost-prohibitive for many women to begin with and with women being more significantly affected by work stoppages and shortages, this has also been a problem unique to women.

While we continue to live through unprecedented times during a pandemic outbreak we would like to call on government at all levels to take a feminist analysis of the response to the pandemic as it was rolled out so far, when considering planning for future response to this and/or other health crises. We stress that the consideration of intersectional gendered implications is crucial to the wellbeing of women and their families.

Download this announcement (pdf): Issues facing women during pandemic August 2020