Press Release: The social and economic impacts and implications of COVID-19 are different for women and men

UN Women draws attention to the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on women. COVID-19 emerges not only as a public health threat but also challenges economies and all segments of society. UN Women stresses that women, who are at the center of paid and unpaid carework, are hit harder by the crisis.

Date: Thursday, April 2, 2020

Photo courtesy of The Honourable Chamber of Deputies of the Republic of Chile. Johanna Zárate Pérez.
Photo courtesy of The Honourable Chamber of Deputies of the Republic of Chile. Johanna Zárate Pérez.

Ankara, Turkey – When pandemics such as COVID-19 strike, gender inequalities are often exacerbated. Direct and indirect discrimination towards vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, refugees and migrants and the poor become more visible.

Inequalities towards women healthcare workers might increase

Women play an extremely important role in responding to the disease as healthcare workers, community leaders and mobilisers, volunteers and scientists. Globally, women make up 70 percent of the workforce of health and social services sectors. In Turkey, women make up 50 percent of all doctors, 70 percent of all healthcare workers and 100 percent of all midwives. Women are disproportionately affected when health systems are overloaded due to crises.

Burden of care work at home lands largely on women

Globally, women do three times as much unpaid domestic and care work than men. In Turkey, women do five times as much unpaid domestic and care work than men. Self-isolation measures overburden women with unpaid care work as more family members spend time at home. For women who need to work from home, this means increased working hours.

As schools switch to distance learning, most parents’ care responsibilities increase, and the responsibility often falls on women. And when daycares close and the parents need to work, the responsibility falls on grandmothers – who are in the risk group.

What needs to be done:

- Equally distribute the domestic and care work in the family. Divide tasks such as dishes, cleaning and cooking among family members.

- Share childcare responsibilities in the family. Childcare isn’t just a mother’s or grandmother’s responsibility.

- Seek help from available national hotlines if you have a chronic illness or are in a risk group: 112 (emergency health services), 155 (police), 156 (gendarmerie), 157 (human trafficking)

Domestic violence is increasing

According to UN Women’s “Progress of the World’s Women: Families in a changing world” report, in 2017, more than half (58 per cent) of all female victims of intentional homicide were killed by a family member, amounting to 50,000 deaths in the year or 137 women each day. According to the same report, globally, close to 18 per cent of ever-partnered women aged 15-49 have experienced intimate partner violence in the previous 12 months, and some 30 per cent of women worldwide who have ever been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner over their lifetime.

During crises, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, violence against women increases. Families spend more time at home due to self-isolation measures, and social and economic insecurities cause increased tension in the household. As a result, domestic violence and sexual abuse increases. Meanwhile, young women are at risk of increased cyber-violence as people spend more time at home and online.

What needs to be done:

If you experience violence or know someone who does, seek support:

- Alo 183 Family, Women, Children and People with Disabilities Social Services Support Line (24/7)

- Alo 155 Police

- Alo 156 Gendarmerie

- 112 Emergency Number

- Domestic Violence Emergency Lines - 0212 656 96 96 - 0549 656 96 96

- Security General Directorate’s Mobile Women’s Support App (KADES) - (Google Play ve App Store)

- Red Light Turkey Vodafone Foundation Mobile App – (Google Play ve App Store) 

42,2 per cent of women employed in Turkey work in the informal employment sector as carers, cleaners and seasonal workers without social security. Women working in the informal employment sector are hit by the crises first and lose their incomes. As they do not have any social security, they also cannot benefit from unemployment assistance.

Women’s role in crisis management

Women’s visibility and participation in decision making processes during crises are pivotal. It is important to mainstream gender equality into crises management and include women in the planning of crisis response. Women’s representation in scientific boards, pandemic and crisis management teams is important to ensure women’s needs are taken into consideration from the very beginning.

Women leaders also play an important role in crisis management. Women MPs, city councilors and mukhtars can factor in women’s needs and expectations in crisis management plans and ensure women are not left behind.

Sources: TurkStat, Time Use Survey, 2015. TurkStat, Workforce Statistics, 2015. UN Women, Progress of the World’s Women: Families in a changing world, 2019.

For more information: Ebru Demirel, UN Women, ebru.demirel@unwomen.org