Women bear the brunt of the social and economic crisis caused by COVID-19, experts say

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MIAMI — Ingrid Londono feels that the coronavirus affects her on all fronts. The 40-year-old nurse started a new job on April 1 and it has been hard for her to learn from a distance and to prove herself as a professional, especially in English, her second language.

With her 10-year-old son at home taking remote classes, she worries as much about the gaps that may remain in his education, at a moment that the help of a tutor cannot be used, as the times that the child interrupts her and does not allow her to focus on work.

“The work has doubled, you are managing the stress of everyone and yourself,” said Londono.

She is worried about her mother who is alone in Colombia, her in-laws, and her brother, who is in quarantine in Spain, one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus.

“I have the financial burden on the family,” said Londono.

Her husband, who recently immigrated legally to the United States, does not yet have a work permit, a situation that will not change immediately because his appointment with immigration authorities was canceled at the end of March.

Women are bearing the brunt of the social and economic crisis caused by COVID-19, experts say.

Concern for the family, the education of children, the instability of the economy, and especially unemployment is causing an excessive burden for women, who outnumber men in job loss in almost all sectors, and to a greater extent in hospitality, services, health and education jobs.

Data on employment in the United States released in early April indicates that women were the most affected initially by losses in the labor market due to COVID-19.

In February, women accounted for 50% of the payroll and in March they accounted for 58.8% of lost jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that provides economic statistics and analysis.

These figures are expected to increase for the next release of unemployment data on May 8.

The responsibility is even greater for the women who are the main breadwinner in their family.

“I haven’t been working for a month. I haven’t been able to ask for unemployment help, because the page won’t let me, when I’m near the end I have to start over,” said a divorced mother from Pembroke Pines, who asked not to give her name.

Like her, more than a million Floridians have been unable to get their unemployment benefits because the Florida website was in serious trouble. On April 20, a new page was launched that reports that until April 24, only 153,788 people had received the unemployment payment.

A music teacher and professional singer, this Pembroke Pines mother has lost most of her income due to the cancellation of shows, parties and the closure of entertainment centers.

And while she still has singing lessons on Zoom, she doesn’t think she can survive on this income and the federal stimulus money, which she estimates will last her two months without incurring any expenses that are not strictly necessary.

“A single mother has three or four jobs, generally, because she has a lot of expenses and nobody to help her,” she said.

She has already paid the rent for her room in a shared house, but she does not know if she will be able to do it in coming months.

“I have worked very hard to achieve these savings, which I had planned to move. Obviously I do need help,” she said of the importance of receiving unemployment benefits.

In the United States, 46.9% of Hispanic households are headed by a single mother with children under the age of 18, who is in charge of supporting the family, sometimes with various jobs, according to figures published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research on April 6.

In the case of African American women, the percentage is 74, and in the case of white women, 45.4%.

In Florida, the largest demographic living in poverty are females 25-34, followed by females 35-44 and then females 18-24.

“There is still a perception that men are the breadwinners in the family, and that is why they keep their jobs more than women in the same industry and at the same professional level,” explained Deanne Butchey, professor in the Department of Finance of Florida International University.

At the same time, Butchey noted that women often have to take time to dedicate to their children, preventing them from advancing at the same rate as men.

She also said that a trend began in 2014 where women started earning more four-year college degrees than men, and that trend continues.

However, even though women have come a long way in attaining higher levels of education, their salary levels and the levels of responsibility still lag those of men in most industries.

The current wage gap and lower levels of advancement during the COVID-19 catastrophe persist, she said.

Butchey also anticipates that the wage gap will continue after the coronavirus pandemic because women generally work in lower-paying jobs in the hospitality and service industry, in banks, and often in positions and jobs that are about to disappear.

“When women return to the work force after the recession, they will be expected to accept reduced levels of pay,” said Butchey.

Before the pandemic hit, Vania Bredy, a 41-year-old health care professional, was used to working long hours.

She combined the administration of the business she co-owns with her husband, a physical therapy consultation in Miramar, with the care of her two children, 8 and 12 years old.

Now the uncertainty and the level of stress are sometimes “overwhelming,” she admits.

“I don’t stop from 8 to 4 p.m. In the mornings I play my son’s ‘teacher.’ Then I worry about the restrictions, the health of the family, the danger of contagion, buying food and exercising with children so as not to gain much weight,” said Bredy.

She acknowledges that, without losing optimism, she is very concerned that “if the situation continues like this, in the coming months we will not be able to survive.”

“At least 55% of our business is lost,” said Bredy, whose office, Bredy Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, is still open with her husband and two other employees up front.

However, income has been kept to a minimum because many of his patients were people over the age of 65, who avoid leaving their homes, even if they need therapy.

“We need to get more help to small businesses, which are the ones that support so many families,” said Bredy, who cannot apply for unemployment benefits because her business is open.

For her part, Londono is already worried about the difficulties she will face when the economy returns to business and many businesses demand that their employees go to work.

“Where do I leave my son if the schools are closed? Will the sanitary measures be adequate where I send him? And when the summer holidays arrive, what will we do?” said Londono.

“I say this as a nurse and a health professional, the coronavirus has affected us a lot emotionally. I think that the number of psychiatric problems that will develop are many,” said Londono.

The emotional burden has already caused her to feel some physical ailments that she thought were cured.

She points out that many patients complain of anxiety and depression, and that children, even if they sometimes do not manifest it openly, are very affected by the situation.

“My son has had nights that he has not been able to sleep,” she said.

As a nurse she offers some tips for dealing with stress:

— Women must create a support network, and know who is available to help.

— Set up a relaxation activity every day, watch a personal growth video, take dance classes or exercise online, do crafts.

— Limit the consumption of sweets, because they weaken the immune system, and also contribute to weight gain and that causes more depression.


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