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How women lived the first year of the pandemic

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Publié le lundi 08 mars 2021

There are significant differences in how women and men experienced the COVID-related confinement, the closing of schools and child care. 

This is shown by the six-country survey COME-HERE (COVID-19, MEntal HEalth, Resilience and Self-regulation), by Profs. Conchita D’Ambrosio, Samuel Greiff, Luca Ratti and Claus Vögele, with their teams of researchers including Liyousew Borga, Anthony Lepinteur, Giorgia Menta, Annika Lutz, Zoé van Dyck, André Schulz, Julie Ortmann and Remi Yin.

They investigate how people allocate their time during full and partial lockdown, as well as the mental health toll on women and men. The survey was conducted in Luxembourg in three waves of questionnaires in April, August and November 2020. Detailed results are available online and two short summaries are downloadable at pandemic.uni.lu.

Can you give us a brief run through the main findings concerning gender differences?

Gender disparities appear to have been accentuated at the beginning of the pandemic as women are disproportionately responsible for the bulk of unpaid tasks, including childcare and household chores while doing their share of work in the labour market. During the first lockdown in March and April, women have spent on average two more hours on childcare and one more hour on household chores per day. These differences are statistically significant.  Over the course of the year, and with the easing of the lockdown measures, time spent on unpaid domestic work decreases, but the disparity with men remains intact in this dimension.

Women experienced higher levels of stress than men, higher levels of depressive symptoms than men, higher levels of anxiety symptoms than men, and felt higher levels of loneliness than men. The differences persist throughout the survey period. Even though stress and loneliness levels decrease during the summer period when confinement measures were relatively relaxed, women still express higher unease than men. All these differences are also statistically significant.

As we enter the second year of the pandemic, how can vulnerable persons like single parents or women in key and frontline professions be protected?

As in other health and economic areas, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have brought to the fore societal and individual issues that now need to be addressed. We consider the COVID-19 pandemic not only a scourge to everybody, but also a wake-up call for everybody, most importantly political decision- makers, to re-think what should have been addressed even before the pandemic. This is most apparent in our results on gender differences in that they show the double burden of many women in our society, which has been highlighted so clearly by what happened over the last 12 months. The results also underline the necessity for health care to focus also on mental health, as the mid- and long-term consequences of the mental health impairment reported by large proportions of the population need to be addressed to avoid negative consequences for individuals' health.

Did you register notable differences between the responses of women in Luxembourg and in the other five countries? 

Our data allowed us to discover two comforting facts: Women in Luxembourg do not show lower levels of life satisfaction than men, a result that we find in France and Germany, especially in April/May and November/December; the same holds for differences in the perception of a worthwhile life - lower values for women - that is not present in Luxembourg, but is reported by women in Germany in April/May and in every month of our survey in France, especially in November/December.

© Photo: Anna Shvets / Pexels