Can COVID-19 lead to improved gender equality and health?
Dr Tania King writes that COVID-19 is an opportunity to advance gender equality and its many health benefits.
COVID-19 has delivered a shock to existing gender systems that could recalibrate gender roles, with beneficial effects on population health. The economic arrangements, policy frameworks, and market forces that determine the distribution of paid and unpaid labour across society are powerful structural determinants of health. The way that paid and unpaid labour is inequitably divided between men and women is central to the perpetuation of gender inequalities across the globe, and the ways that such divisions can be shifted or disrupted offer critical opportunities to modify the gender-differentiated effects of COVID-19 on health.
Occupational gender segregation generates particular vulnerabilities for women in relation to COVID-19.2 Globally, two-thirds of the health and social care workforce are women. This includes occupations that are often undervalued and poorly paid, despite being essential in the pandemic response, such as aged-care and disability-support workers. Being at the front line of the pandemic response places these women at risk of infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus , as well as physical and psychological pressures.
The Lancet, Published online June 19, 2020
Dr Tania King