Flexible working models must catalyze ‘new normal’ for women in the workplace: experts
Warning that the COVID-19 outbreak is pushing women deeper into poverty and poor health, experts have urged employers to learn lessons from the pandemic and use them to catalyze a “new normal” for women who work by implementing flexible working models and hybrid systems.
According to an analysis by UN Women, 740 million women work in the informal economy and their incomes fell by 60% in the first month of the pandemic. In an average day, women around the world spend about three times as many hours (4.2 hours) on unpaid domestic and care work as men (1.7 hours) and this “unpaid” distribution , unrecognized and unequal” domestic responsibilities prevents women from participating in household chores. the labor market, he said.
Natasha Mudhar, founder of The World We Want (WWW), said evidence is available to suggest that women in India and other countries around the world have borne the brunt of the impact of coronavirus on employment and education.
WWW is a global social impact business launched to accelerate the achievement of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The pandemic has led to school closures, with women statistically bearing the majority of childcare and household responsibilities, many have been left with no choice but to quit their jobs, she said.
“However, we can learn lessons from the pandemic and use them to catalyze a ‘new normal’ for working women,” Mudhar added.
“Lockdowns have shown us the benefit of flexible work models and hybrid systems, allowing access to new resources for employees that could coincide with childcare responsibilities and allow the two to better co-exist,” she said.
Mudhar further said that employers should take it upon themselves to apply flexible strategies and access technology to leverage lessons learned during COVID-19 and create a more accommodating environment for women.
“It was a problem before the pandemic hit, but now we have evidence that hybrid models are in fact productive. That sentiment is echoed around the world. But for the informal economy, she says, the lessons are different.
“The pandemic has had a significant impact on this sector, but the challenges remain similar to those of a pre-pandemic period. We need strong infrastructure focused on the development of low-skilled workers. The informal sector lacks access or awareness of smart gadgets and the knowledge to use them and a conscious effort must be made to change this through localized education programs,” she added.
Mudhar said programs can also include integrated guaranteed minimum workdays for women, with mandates on local urban bodies to pursue gender-sensitive work and IEC campaigns. Such programs have the potential to facilitate the return of women to the labor market.
Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the Population Foundation of India, said the economic and social fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing women further into poverty and ill health, threatening to reverse decades of progress made. towards gender equality.
“The pandemic has significantly increased the burden of caregiving for women, including through school closures and home quarantine measures. The lack of economic security, coupled with a substantial increase in caregiving and lack of domestic support, has pushed many more women around the world out of the workforce for good. It also had a negative impact on their mental and physical health,” she said.
Going forward, Muttreja said, it is imperative that policies and programs put women and their needs at the centre.
For example, an adequate supply of daycare and after-school child care and work-from-home opportunities will help women stay in work. We also need greater representation of women in leadership, political and decision-making positions, she said.
Muttreja said the differential impact of the pandemic is the culmination of social norms that have acted as the greatest obstacle to gender equality for centuries. We need to invest in social and behavior change communication strategies that will help improve the status of women and recognize their essential contribution to society as a whole.