Gendered Impact of the COVID-19: Insights from an Interpretative Phenomenological Perspective

From Vikalpa: The Journal for Decision Makers

COVID-19 pandemic has turned the lives of people upside down across all walks of life. The COVID-19 driven partial/full lockdowns across the globe confined millions behind the walls restricting their movement. COVID-19 has adversely impacted the progression of women’s empowerment. It is reported that a greater number of women compared to male counterparts have lost their jobs during the pandemic, especially those working in the industrial mix. The present study explains the major changes and issues women face during COVID-19, especially during the lockdown phase. The exploratory study delves deeper into the primary subjects using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

As the pandemic scuttles through the economies, a massive wave of layoffs is expected among the temporary workers, most of whom are women (Durant, 2020). The brunt of unemployment is unequal across the board. Since women are majorly involved in temporary or time work, it has impacted them severely. Further, the restrictions on staying at home have brought along a shadow impact highlighting the persisting psycho-social issues whereby some 243 million women globally have experienced sexual or physical abuse over the past 12 months (Alon et al., 2020; Burki, 2020). Therefore, to understand the gendered impact of the virus, the present study was conducted in India with the help of semi-structured personal interviews.

It is apprehended that in a gender regressive scenario wherein no action is taken to counter the economic and social impact of COVID-19 on the women, global GDP growth could be $1 trillion lower in 2030, and correspondingly there will be a filter down effect as around 33 million fewer women will find an opportunity to work (Madgavkar et al., 2020). Taking action to advance gender equality is speculated to contribute an additional $13 trillion to global GDP in 2030 by creating 230 million jobs for women (Madgavkar et al., 2020). Hence, including women in the mainstream and a welfare-oriented approach is crucial for economic prospects.

In the present era, women have assumed more significant roles be it in the financial, social, political or spiritual spheres. Still, it is feared that the compounded impact of the COVID-19 may block this growth spree. There were partial or full lockdowns across the globe The present study tries to examine the economic, social and psychological impact of the virus-driven lockdown on women. It is found that the lockdown has exacerbated the existing inequalities. There is a rise in the level of abuse during the period of lockdown. A majority of the women in the study are burdened with additional responsibilities with no division of work by the partners. Concerted efforts are required both on the part of individuals and the government otherwise, the progress attained by women over the past few decades will fade away.

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