Is COVID-19 having a greater impact on women than men?

Cigna white paper explores

Adam Saville
clock • 3 min read

Five reasons why women are perhaps more affected by the pandemic than men

Despite reports showing that 68% of worldwide deaths due to coronavirus have been amongst men, a whitepaper by Cigna has explored how women are potentially being impacted by the pandemic more so - and in less obvious ways - than their male counterparts.

While the World Health Organisation suggests stronger female immune systems and better lifestyle choices have helped their resilience to COVID-19, Cigna's report outlines a number of vocational and professional factors at play for women. They include:

  1. Frontline roles
    A recent UN report demonstrated that women represent well over half of frontline health workers worldwide, whole other statistics suggest that females make up three-quarters of healthcare workers. This therefore puts females at greater exposure to the risks of COVID-19 as a result.     
  2. Economic implications
    The white paper also references the economic implications of the pay gap between men and women, which in the healthcare sector has an average of 28% - compared to the 31.4% global figure. The report adds that women represent a considerable proportion of care givers and domestic workers, which is an ‘informal economy' that often lacks stability as well as employee sick pay and wellbeing support. Additionally research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies shows that women are 30% more likely to be working in a sector hit hard by COVID-19 such as tourism or hospitality.
  3. Caregiving responsibilities
    Before the pandemic, it was estimated by the UN that females were doing as much as three times unpaid care as men, while the International Labour Organisation has reported that roles of women in the workplace have led to many shouldering a ‘double burden'. With school closures across 185 countries currently affecting nearly 90% of school children, Cigna suggests that studies indicate mothers are expected to be those most impacted.
  4. Personal health risks
    The white paper reports that women are at a greater risk of domestic violence than men, especially as a result of lockdown, while access to women's health services, including family planning and maternity services, could also be reduced at a time when health services are limited to essential services only. According to Cigna, recent research focusing on the lockdown brought about by the outbreak of COVID-19 suggests that women are more susceptible to loneliness and distress during this situation than their male counterparts.
  5. Decision making
    Men occupy more than 90% of heads of state or government positions, 75% of global parliamentary posts and 75% of senior healthcare leadership roles, recent data from the UN and World Economic Forum shows. "Statistics such as these suggest that there is a severe lack of women in roles that give them the opportunity to make decisions and influence procedures that ultimately affect other women around the world," said Cigna.

To conclude the white paper, Cigna said: "The ramifications of COVID-19 are being felt and suffered all over the world. In many, perhaps less apparent while still significant, ways women are being affected to a greater extent than men. Vocational choices put them at the front line, fighting the virus; caregiving responsibilities place additional pressure on their time allocation; restrictions and isolation have the potential to jeopardise their health; and economic implications may threaten their financial stability.

"As we begin to see the lifting of restrictions, the relaxing of rules, and the gradual return to ‘normal' life in some regions, we have an opportunity to reset the balance, assess and modernise the status quo, and incorporate positive changes and improvements to everyday life that can be beneficial for women and men alike."

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