Brazil in ‘shecession’ as women feel larger burden of job crisis

. Nov 09, 2020
women workers brazil coronavirus Food distribution center for the poor in Planaltina, Goiás. Photo: Marcos Casiano/Shutterstock

The global economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic has one peculiar characteristic: unlike previous recessions, in which women increasingly entered the workforce in response to the economic downturn, the current crisis has seen women pushed out of employment.

Nicknamed the “shecession,” the first five months of the pandemic in Brazil caused an increase in the disparity between men and women with regard to paid employment. On the one hand, jobs traditionally performed by female workers — such as childhood education and paid domestic work — have been drastically affected by social distancing measures and quarantines.

</p> <p>At the same time, the reduction in the availability of care services has left women overworked, being the <a href="">demographic</a> chiefly responsible for caring for needy portions of the population, such as children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.</p> <p>According to data from the National Household Sample Survey Covid-19 (<a href="">PNAD Covid-19</a>). from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), women make up 51.1 percent of the population of working age in Brazil. In May, 49.5 percent of the country&#8217;s unemployed and underemployed persons were women — in September, this rate rose to 51.9 percent.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/4291478"><script src=""></script></div> <p>At the same time as women have become the majority among Brazil&#8217;s unemployed, the distance between employed men and women stretched from five percentage points to seven.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/4291594"><script src=""></script></div> <h2>Women in the workforce: Left out, and kept out</h2> <p>While we can see increased inequality in access to employment during the pandemic, when we analyze the population that is completely out of the workforce — those without paid jobs who are also not seeking employment — the situation is more severe still. Women already made up the majority of non-workers prior to Covid-19, but in September they made up a rising 63 percent of the population outside of the labor force.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/4291635"><script src=""></script></div> <p>The reasons for this increase are likely to be pandemic-related. Indeed, with social distancing measures in place and companies less likely to hire, large numbers of unemployed Brazilians simply gave up their search for employment, not wanting to risk being infected by the coronavirus to apply for a job that, in all likelihood, was not there in the first place.</p> <p>Many of these people are now returning to their job searches, which has seen Brazil&#8217;s unemployment rate hit <a href="">new records</a>. But even this return to work — or the return to job searches — has not occurred equally between men and women.</p> <p>Back in May, 18.6 percent of Brazil&#8217;s employed persons were on leave due to social distancing rules — 23.5 percent of female workers and 15 percent of men. Five months later, however, only 2.5 percent of men remained on leave, but 5.2 percent of women were not brought back to work.</p> <p>After the long and unequal process of incorporating and integrating Brazilian women into the workforce, the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly been a setback. In this case, a long-held feminist argument appears to be true, that it takes a single crisis for women&#8217;s rights to be put under threat.

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Aline Gatto Boueri

Aline Gatto Boueri is a data journalist. She has had her work published by Gênero e Número, Universa UOL, Marie Claire, Projeto Colabora, among others.

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