Viewpoint: 'Across the world, women's independence will be a silent victim of this pandemic'

The existing workforce structure invites the likelihood that women will bear the brunt of much of the "looking after" labor that the coronavirus pandemic demands: looking after patients, looking after self-isolating elders, looking after children kept home from school. 

"Purely as a physical illness, the coronavirus appears to affect women less severely. But in the past few days, the conversation about the pandemic has broadened: We are not just living through a public-health crisis, but an economic one," Helen Lewis writes for The Atlantic

Women in heterosexual relationships are more likely to earn less than their male partners. When life is disrupted, their jobs are generally considered lower priority. The thing about the COVID-19 disruption, however, is that it could last months. "Some women's lifetime earnings will never recover. With the schools closed, many fathers will undoubtedly step up, but that won't be universal," writes Ms. Lewis, The Atlantic's London-based staff writer.

Ms. Lewis argues that the urge to categorize gender as a side issue or distraction during a global health crisis must be resisted. She also points out what she considers an opportunity during this difficult time: "This could be the first outbreak where gender and sex differences are recorded, and taken into account by researchers and policy makers. For too long, politicians have assumed that child care and elderly care can be 'soaked up' by private citizens — mostly women — effectively providing a huge subsidy to the paid economy. This pandemic should remind us of the true scale of that distortion." 

Read Ms. Lewis' piece in full here.

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