CMU-Q research students and professor highlight how the pandemic has resulted in disproportionate rise of the unemployment among women
Working mothers have already been shouldering the majority of family caregiving responsibilities in the face of a childcare system that is wholly inadequate for a society in which most parents work outside the home. But evidence shows that working mothers have taken on more of the resulting childcare responsibilities and are more frequently reducing their hours or leaving their jobs entirely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many sectors, resulting in the disproportionate rise of the unemployment rate among married women, according to Veli Safak, Assistant Teaching Professor in Economics, at Qatar Foundation partner university Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q).
He says: “This disruption forced spouses with children to rearrange their tasks. And due to the gender wage gap, women in many households chose to give up their jobs to support their children.
“The Federal Reserve posted the highest unemployment rate as 9.7% among married men and 13.1% among married women in April 2020, in the US. In February, the unemployment rate was 2% among married men and 2.2% among married women.”
It requires policymakers to rethink parental leave. Companies can look at ways of assisting working mothers by adopting more flexible parental leave policies. Otherwise, the gender gap will only rise in the labor market
Contrary to global perception, Qatar's female labor force participation rate (~60%) is above the European Union average. And under the COVID-19 restrictions, distributed workplaces have become the new normal. As part of the economic diversification efforts, Qatar is able to mobilize the economically inactive female population by expanding business and employment opportunities for homemaker mothers.
"It requires policymakers to rethink parental leave. Companies can look at ways of assisting working mothers by adopting more flexible parental leave policies. Otherwise, the gender gap will only rise in the labor market,” Safak says.
In Qatar, women are underrepresented in the labor market, according to Ihsane Sadiki, Student-researcher at CMU-Q. The Planning and Statistics Authority reported 1,866,940 male paid workers and 302,335 female paid workers, revealing an approximately 6-to-1 ratio in the employee pool in the first quarter of 2020.
More importantly, the male employment rate was 95.90 percent, while the female employment rate was 59.14 percent, resulting in a gender-employment gap of 36.76 percentage points in the first quarter of 2020.
The wider gender employment gap can be construed with the conservative gender roles that are still firmly enshrined in many societies
Sadiki says: “The wider gender employment gap can be construed with the conservative gender roles that are still firmly enshrined in many societies. Women are mostly relegated to the domestic domain as their exclusive role in the reproductive society. Indeed, household charges continue to be their sole responsibility, leading them to quit their jobs in the long-run due to the resulting pressure related to lack of time and energy.
“The mass closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic left many working women with no choice but to take time off or quit their job to look after their children as they still bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities. The unequal participation of genders in household obligations left the women with a heavy burden of the supporting continuation of their children while simultaneously accommodating their personal needs.”
The well-marked difference between the male and female populations in the Qatar labor market is also reflected in the wage-gap between the two groups. But meager wages cannot make sufficient justification for women's abandonment of their work, according to Daisy Ru, another Student-researcher at CMU-Q.
I do not believe that the wage gap makes a sufficient justification for women’s abandonment of their work and the work-home trade-off easier
“I do not believe that the wage gap makes a sufficient justification for women’s abandonment of their work and the work-home trade-off easier. Other underlying factors like women’s responsibility in a nuclear family still play an essential role in the labor market. Like the concept of Republican Motherhood that emerged in the United States before, some women are still responsible for raising and teaching their children at home,” Ru says.
Mariam Ahmed, another Student-researcher reports “Men earned an average monthly wage of 11,703 QAR, and women made an average monthly wage of 10,604 QAR, disclosing that male paid workers earn 10.36% more than female paid workers. While we are eagerly waiting for the next release of the Labor Force Sample Survey to examine the pandemic effects, we suspect that women experienced the loss of employment income more often than men in Qatar.”