The pandemic has negatively impacted everyone, but women are particularly hard hit. From increased domestic abuse to job losses in a market where they are still catching up to men, women account for over half of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Jamaica. And that’s just the unlucky minority.
Among the majority that have been lucky enough to stay healthy and employed, homeschooling young children and stay at home restrictions for the elderly have forced many women to work from home (unsuccessfully) or miss work to fulfil caregiving responsibilities for which they’ve always had the lion’s share.
Since single mothers head 41 percent of households here – many responsible for the family’s financial and social wellbeing – quitting work is not the option it is for American women who last month left their jobs at four times the rate of men, largely because of the difficulty of juggling their responsibilities.
Just before the pandemic, things looked good for women. A record number were chosen over men to fill clerical roles, the fastest growing area of work in Jamaica. Though less than half the workforce up to that point, they had already outnumbered men in essential industries, like healthcare, education and financial intermediation (e.g. banking). That seems to have kept them employed in these turbulent times since more men have lost their jobs to COVID-19 than women.
Don’t get us wrong. Men are having a tough time, too. Despite making up less than half of Jamaica’s confirmed cases, they account for the majority of deaths from the virus. As the pandemic wreaks our mental health, men are less likely to seek psychiatric help, leaving them vulnerable to side effects like suicide. While our overall suicide rate has been relatively low, we’ve already seen spikes in attempts from other at-risk groups.
COVID-19 has created new norms – like homeschooling and work at home – and is exacerbating old problems, like gender inequality in household and familial responsibilities. While that brings to mind the idiom “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” this definition puts it even better: “Turbulent changes do not affect reality on a deeper level, other than to cement the status quo.”