Gender Inequality During Covid-19

September 17, 2020

This Gender Equality Week is unique – it is happening during the global pandemic of COVID-19. This pandemic – or rather it’s associated social, economic, and political consequences- has made clearer and increased the inequalities in our communities. Gender inequality is no exception to this. Many sources have shown that the negative impacts of COVID-19 are impacting women and gender-diverse Canadians the most.

Impact on Unpaid Labour and Leisure Time

Even before the pandemic, Statistics Canada had found that women do a disproportionate amount of unpaid labour compared to men, particularly in terms of house work and caregiving. On average, women do 2.5 more hours of unpaid labour a day compared to men.

This has only increased as a result of events like school closures, self-isolations and quarantining - as found by the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Such events have led to a need for more unpaid labour - on average an added 2 hours of unpaid labour a day - which women have taken the brunt of.

This has reduced the amount of time women have to themselves, which can further impact their mental and physical health.

Impact on Economic Inequality

As a result of this increase in unpaid labour, as well as a general economic crisis that has accompanied COVID-19, gender economic inequality is on the rise.

This is particularly the case for women living in poverty and women of racial minorities, with about 55% of Black women and 50% of Indigenous women reporting struggling financially because of unpaid care work, as compared to only 34% of white women. Many women of Colour even faced the dilemma of giving up paid work to deal with this increase in unpaid labour in the home, with women of Colour reporting this issue three times as much as white women, as reported by CTV.

Impact on Rates of Domestic Violence

Canada's minister for women and gender equality says that reports of domestic violence have increased by 20-30% during the COVID-19 crisis. This violence has been mainly faced by women and gender-diverse Canadians. The minister believes this stems from stay-at home orders, limiting support spaces for those experiencing domestic violence, and limited social interactions with others outside the household.

The federal government has already pledged $50 million to assist women’s shelters and sexual assault centers for women, gender-diverse individuals, and Indigenous Peoples across Canada to handle this surge in violence, but will likely need to do much more to deal with the causes and consequences of these events.

Impact on Mental Health

With these realities, and due to many more unmentioned factors, Statistics Canada has found that COVID-19 has highly impacted mental health, particularly for gender diverse individuals.

In the Statistics Canada questionnaire, 21.1% of men reported poor mental health, while that number was 25.5% for women, and almost 70% for gender-diverse participants. More specifically, anxiety disorders became more prominent for all groups as compared to pre-COVID-19 rates. The survey reports 20.5% of male participants experiencing some form of anxiety disorder, 29.3% of women, and 61.8% for gender-diverse participants.

Gender-diverse participants on average reported 2-3 times more mental health issues than non-gender-diverse participants. The researchers argued that this may come from the fact that more gender-diverse participants were impacted by job-loss and income-loss, and that these participants also had greater fear of job-loss and income-loss in general, even if they still maintained their employment at the time of the survey.