This International Women’s Day (8 March) is a good occasion to remind that the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting women rather than men in all senses. The consequences of the pandemic are threatening the enormous efforts carried out during the last few years to achieve equality in the job market, particularly among young professionals, and as the professional hub of the Erasmus Generation garagErasmus feels particularly concerned for young women’s opportunities.

Whereas the COVID-19 outbreak in Spring 2020 has been an opportunity for many companies and institutions to make giant strides towards digitalisation & remote working -changes that would have taken years have been implemented in just a few weeks-, female workers have suffered setbacks that have called into question the results of huge efforts over the last few years to achieve equality in the labour market.

In words of garagErasmus President Francesco Cappè , “The pandemia heavily tested our systems at all levels. The weakest elements of our society have been particularly affected. The mobility, which represented the essence of Erasmus’ existence has been interrupted and its culture with it. Today, on behalf of the garagErasmus Foundation, I would like to express our deep hope that the renaissance, that historically follows the darkest moments of our humanity, will be an occasion to reduce inequality of our societies, make our systems working smoother and fairer, and stop ignoring the disparity of treatments that women worldwide are receiving. We can not get back where we were simply because covid 19 highlighted, once for all, the inequality and unsustainability of our societies”.

The Erasmus Generation is peculiarly feeling the effects of the Corona crisis, which is especially devastating between young women, who are facing a double discrimination in this sense. EU institutions and national governments should devote particular efforts to support their employability through targeted policies, and the EU recovery plan must live up to its name by working for the Next Generation of Europeans.

According to the ILO-OECD paper “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on jobs and incomes in G20 economies”, “Early evidences confirm that, contraty to the 2008-2012 crisis, the COVID-19 economic crisis have negatively affected the job market prospects of women disproportionally”. In OECD countries, the rise of unemployment was superior among women (+3’7%) than among men (3’2%).

Furthermore, as reported by the 2020 Women in Work Index Report conducted by the consultancy firm PwC, the pandemic is causing a “shecession”, and estimates that progress for female workers could be back at 2017 levels by the 2021, and that in order to undo the damage caused by COVID-19 to women in work – even by 2030 progress towards gender equality needs to be twice as fast as its historical rate.

This International Women’s Day should especially pay tribute to women’s efforts at the forefront directly dealing with the pandemic. In Europe, women are more likely than men to be in occupations where there is a high risk of COVID-19 infection. Probably the best example is the health & social care sector, where nearly 80% of workers are women according to the 2019 edition of Eurostat. Medical doctors, nurses, personal care workers and other health professionals and their associates deserve special recognition, as well as female workers in the informal sector. Not to mention students & recent graduates with precarious jobs working in the service sector (such as tourism, education or childcare).

On the other hand, childcare facilities and schools closures likely amplified their unpaid work burden at home, where segregation of duties remains clearly unequal. Single parents, most of whom are women, are particularly vulnerable. Not to mention women suffering gender violence in their households. Therefore, garagErasmus considers that this day should be a reminder of the vital necessity to fight for gender equality, and invites the Erasmus Generation to stand up for women’s right to fully develop their professional potential.

Would you like to know more about this topic? We invite you to read “The gendered impact of the COVID-19 crisis and post-crisis period” report, carried out by the European Parliament in September 2020.