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COVID-19 Affects Women’s Employment, Quality of Life

  Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nitty Hirawaty Kamarulzaman
 Head
 Department of Agribusiness and Bioresource Economics
 Faculty of Agriculture
Universiti Putra Malaysia 

 

 
**This article was published in English and has no translation in Bahasa Melayu** 
 
To control the COVID-19 outbreak, most nations have implemented measures including the Movement Control Order (MCO), travel bans, and commercial closures. The Malaysian government had announced the deployment of the MCO on March 18, 2020, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Since then, five phases of MCO have been executed, with the final phase carried out on June 9, 2020 (Azra et al., 2021). The MCO had been reported to have serious effects on domestic demand for fish and seafood because of food service closures, a halt in tourism, and a shift in consumers’ spending patterns. COVID-19 is expected to reduce household earnings by 12% and induce unemployment for more than 2.4 million Malaysians (Malaysian Institute of Economic Research, 2020; Waiho et al., 2020).
 
About 30 women were involved in the project on “Integrated quorum quenching strategies to reduce antimicrobial resistance in shrimp aquaculture (i-QAS)”. Most of the respondents are farmers and office administrators. Some of the women representing the respondents of this study may have experienced some difficulties to survive with their job as some of the companies started to lay off their workers. According to emerging research on the impact of COVID-19, women’s economic and productive lives will be impacted significantly and differently than men (Alon et al., 2020).
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected working hours and the earnings of workers around the world. There is a rise in the unemployment rate among citizens and it has become a hot topic in many countries as a result of COVID-19-related problems. Some women tend to lose their jobs. Consequently, they have no other option than to do multiple works or tasks such as online business and many more to overcome the problems and survive.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on women. Males are losing occupations as well, particularly when the economic impact spreads across sectors and businesses. Although we do not yet know the gender distribution of employment and business losses, empirical data suggests that women are more prone than men to any unexpected loss of income. Unemployment is commonly considered an economic issue, but its effects extend beyond that, affecting psychological health, mental stress, and, as a result, an individual’s quality of life, as well as influencing society.
 
One of the primary reasons why women are disproportionately affected by the crisis is because they have larger care and family obligations than men. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the increased demand for care work is exacerbating already existing inequalities in the gender division of labour. On average, the incomes of women are lower than that of men, their poverty rates are higher, and they have fewer savings. Therefore, their capacity to absorb the current economic shock is less than that of men. Women who are single parents and female-headed households are mostly faced with significant impacts. Some layoffs or wage cutbacks and increased care obligations have made it more difficult, causing women to locate new jobs or income sources. This has consequently affected their mental health. As described by Pearlin (1989), being jobless raises the possibility of pressures such as a lack of resources, restricted chances, and low self-esteem, as well as restricting access to privileges and security.
 
Employers in particular should be more lenient to women workers in terms of working place, as nowadays most companies have already practiced working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Most of the respondents are office administrators, thus working from home can at least alleviate women’s burden: Since they are allowed to work from home, they can pay more attention to their kids and households.
 
According to the Department of Standards Malaysia (DOSM) (2021), the labour force participation rate (LFPR) for women was still low at 55.3% in 2020 as compared to other South-East Asia countries such as Singapore (69.7%) and Thailand (66.8%). Generally, women’s LFPR for developed nations exceed 60%. By sustaining women’s position in the companies, there are high possibilities that the percentage of LFPR for women is maintained or increased in the country. At the same time, the government should have established and proposed more effective programs or incentives dedicated to women for their survivability.
 

Tarikh Input: 04/03/2022 | Kemaskini: 10/03/2022 | syazreena

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