How the coronacrisis causes us to revert to old-fashioned gender roles

The pandemic has had a great impact on the professional lives of many mothers. Especially mothers of young children are at risk of being left behind. In an article of The Economist, research by Anne Boring, Assistant Professor at Erasmus School of Economics and Head of the Women in Business Chair at Sciences Po in Paris, and Gloria Moroni, Post-Doctoral Researcher at Erasmus School of Economics, is highlighted. They found that in France, attitudes towards gender roles regressed during the country’s first lockdown.

Job losses 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many countries have closed schools for a long time. This has resulted in many mothers of young children having to stop working outside their home or even some of them having to step back professionally. According to The Economist, in America, 1.5 million fewer mothers with children under the age of 13 were in work compared to a year earlier. Even though some mothers have returned to work, mothers of small children without a bachelor’s degree are most likely to have lost their job.

Mental health effects

The pandemic also affected the mental health of many parents. At the peak of the pandemic, over seven in ten mothers said they were failing both their employers and their children. Nine in ten concluded that working while looking after young kids was impossible. Some parents had to choose between leaving their children unattended or quitting a front-line job. Couples also seem to be reverting to old-fashioned standards, with men bringing home the money while women take care of the children and the house.

Regressing attitudes towards gender

Such a division of labour often makes sense since women tend to earn less than their male partners. This could have a negative effect on the gap between the sexes. Anne Boring and Gloria Moroni found that in France, attitudes towards gender regressed during the country’s first lockdown, particularly among the parents of children under the age of 12, men and poorer households. They found that men became more likely to say that they make better political leaders. Both men and women with young children became more likely to believe a woman’s job is to look after the family. Such norms are linked with lower levels of female workforce participation. And once women drop out of the workforce, they are slower to return than men.

Assistant professor
More information

The full article from The Economist, 22 May 2021, can be downloaded above. 

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