“There is no doubt that women have been more strongly affected by the Corona crisis. In addition to gainful employment (home office) it was women who were most exposed to additional extraordinary stress resulting from care and household responsibilities (e.g. home schooling); Corona also led to a drastic drop in employment in primarily female dominated sectors such as the tourism industry” states Johannes Kopf, chairman of the PES network.
Taken in isolation the basic labour market figures indicate that the Covid-19 crisis affected men and women equally in Europe. In the 2nd quarter of 2020 the positive employment trend of the last five years nosedived and five million jobs, including 2.2 million jobs occupied by women, were lost. The 3rd quarter of 2020 delivered a slight ease, the number of jobs for women however remaining lower by 1.6 million compared with the 3rd quarter of 2019 (a total loss of 3.6 million jobs in the 3rd and 3.1 million jobs in the 4th quarter). Between the 2nd and 4th quarters of 2020 the numbers in full time employment reduced significantly more than those in part-time employment.
The decline in employment levels due to the pandemic was noticeable for both women and men in all member states of the PES network except Malta and Cyprus (no data is available for Germany).
The tourism sector was particularly affected thereby; 54% of the employment drop in the 4th quarter 2020 (33% respectively 37% in the 2nd respectively 3rd quarters of 2020) being attributable to travelling restrictions. The proportion of women in this sector lies on an EU average at 54%; significantly more women than men lost their jobs. In the 2nd quarter of 2020 the number of female employees dropped by more than 1 million (-19.8%; men: -15.1%) compared with the previous year, this decline continued through the 3rd quarter with 800,000 (-15.2%; men: -11.8%) and the 4th quarter with 960,000 (women: -19.5%, men: -16.9%).
The trend of employment reduction of women and men in trade and retail as well as manufacturing and production continued in 2020. In the sectors of other commercial services, education and training, health and social services as well as arts/entertainment/recreation it was mostly the jobs of women which were lost compared with the previous year: 730,000 in the 2nd quarter, 889,000 in the 3rd quarter, and 579,000 in the 4th quarter (men: -488,000, resp. -364,000, resp. -367,000).
The challenges of the year 2020 resulted however in employment growth in both the energy supply industry as well as the information and communications sector. Additional jobs were also created in public administration and companies offering financial and insurance services.
Table 1: Development of employment of men and women by selected sectors in the EU 27 member states: changes in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters 2020 in comparison to the previous year, in %
In the 2nd quarter of 2020 short-time work and other instruments aimed at maintaining employment were deployed in numerous member states of the PES network. Unemployment of women was even slightly lower compared with the previous year. The number of female and male employees using these instruments reduced in the 3rd quarter from around 7.2 million men and 6.6 million women in the 2nd quarter to a total of 2 million in the 3rd quarter of 2020, only to slightly increase again in the 4th quarter to 3.1 million.
“Short-time work prevented an even stronger increase in unemployment in Europe, although the year 2020 took many of the PES to the edge of their capabilities; this was however also a year we can together be proud of as we have never saved so many jobs before” states Johannes Kopf.
Figure 1: Development of leave of absence (short-time work or similar instruments) and unemployment of men and women: changes in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters 2020 in comparison to the previous year, in absolute numbers
Subsequently the unemployment of women in the 3rd quarter of 2020 increased by 14.7% compared with 2019 (men – an increase of +13.4%), and with the unemployment rate in the 3rd quarter of 2020 at 7.9% being 0.8 percentage points higher than that of men. In the 4th quarter of 2020 the unemployment rate of women was at 7.5% and that of men at 7.0%.
At the same time the number of women available for taking on jobs who were however not searching for a job due to the labour market situation grew in the 2nd quarter of 2020 by 55.3%, and was 17.1% higher in the 3rd quarter respectively 19.5% higher in the 4th quarter compared with 2019. For men this relative increase was even slightly higher at 64.6%, respectively 20.0% and 25.0%.
The Eurostat data illustrating the movements on the European labour market demonstrates that in virtually all member states of the PES network the number of women (but also that of men) who changed from gainful employment into economic inactivity was significantly higher in the 2nd quarter 2020 when compared with the respective quarters in the preceding years. Subsequently the number of persons who were not in gainful employment was 6.0% higher than in the 2nd quarter of 2019 (+4.6% women and +8.1% men); in the 3rd and 4th quarters the trend reversed and the movement from inactivity to gainful employment increased, resulting in a reduction of economically inactive persons.
EUROFOUND held an online poll in April and June/July 2020 on living and working during the Covid-19 pandemic in the EU member states. Around 45% of employed men and women worked partially from home, around one third exclusively from home. The compatibility of employment, household work and caring for children represented for women with children below 12 years a particular challenge in the last year. 29% of the questioned female employees stated that their concentration abilities were clearly impaired and 35% said that the work load left far too little time for the family.