The Gendered Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Divisions of Work, Care, and Wellbeing

A contribution by Dr Mara A. Yerkes, Associate Professor Interdisciplinary Social Science, and Dr Chantal Remery, Assistant Professor School of Economics


A contribution by Dr Mara Yerkes and Dr Chantal Remery for the Gender, Diversity and COVID-19 platform. The platform offers a series of short blogposts in which we invite different Hub members and researchers to share their findings, insights and reading tips on issues of inclusion and exclusion related to the Corona crisis.

Prior to COVID-19, gendered research into pandemics and their effects was fragmented. As lockdown measures have an unprecedented and complex effect on the lives of men and women, understanding the impact of the pandemic on gender inequalities in work and care is crucial.

COVID-19 led to a distinction between essential and non-essential work. Consequently, much previously undervalued and underpaid work done by women in female-dominated occupations (e.g.  health care, education, childcare) became essential. Other female-dominated services, however, have been overwhelmingly affected by lockdown measures. Women are experiencing the greatest job losses, a reversal of usual economic crises which disproportionately affect men. International findings suggest the pandemic also has an unprecedented and complex effect on unpaid household and care work, with women taking on greater care and household tasks. Simultaneously, men have also taken on more care and household tasks than prior to the pandemic.

The gendered impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

What does this situation look like in the Netherlands? Women suffer more job losses than men. However, men’s unemployment rates have increased more, suggesting that many women who lost their job withdrew from the labour market. Moreover, in our COVID-19 study among parents during lockdown, we find that mothers adapted their working times more than fathers, working more in the evenings, weekends, and on days they normally do not work. Fathers were more likely to be working from home given mothers’ overrepresentation in essential occupations. At home, prior to COVID-19 mothers were doing more, and they still are. However, 22% of fathers reported doing more care tasks than before, and 17% reported doing more household work. Might this lead to more egalitarian divisions of care and household tasks? It’s too early to tell, but the gendered impact of the COVID-19 pandemic deserves our continued attention to fully understand its complexity and to help mitigate its effects.