The pandemic worsened economic gender equality

Men received more paid leave and women lost more income, looking at the entire adult Swedish population. The effects of the covid-19 pandemic widened the gap in employment between women and men, while allowing women-dominated occupational groups to work harder under more strained conditions. The Swedish Gender Equality Agency concludes in its report that the pandemic has had a negative impact on economic gender equality.

– The pandemic has reinforced the differences in opportunities for economic independence that already existed between women and men. The restrictions and measures that have been introduced have affected women and men in different ways, but overall we can see that women as a group have been hit harder financially than men, says Sara Andersson, senior investigator.

Women with the lowest incomes have had their income reduced the most.

The Swedish Gender Equality Agency has been commissioned by the government to compile knowledge about how the pandemic has affected economic gender equality. This includes the labor market, different types of income and the conditions for companies. The report, which was handed over to the government on Friday, shows that women have lost income to a greater extent than men. Men have been able to have more free time than women, with marginally less money in their wallets, due to support measures such as short-term work.

– The economic recovery has been faster than expected, but one concern is the large number of long-term unemployed. This is where the group of foreign-born women stands out, who had high unemployment even before the pandemic. Women with the lowest incomes have had their income reduced the most, says Sara Andersson.

Examples of covid-19 pandemic effects for women and men

  • Absence from work. The proportion of men who have answered that they are absent due to covid-19 has been constantly higher than the proportion of women. More women state illness and holidays as reasons, while more men state redundancy, lack of work and other reasons.

  • Monthly income. Women's monthly income fell by an average of 3.3 percentage points, while the corresponding decrease for men was 2.5 percentage points. For women who worked in the public sector with the lowest incomes, incomes fell by an average of 11.5 percentage points and by 4 percentage points for the corresponding group of men.

  • Teleworking. Many women with lower levels of education lacked digital skills even before the pandemic. The digital transition that is accelerated by working at a distance can contribute to increasing the gender gap in digital skills and make it more difficult for women with lower education to get a job.

  • Working environment. Women's work environment has been affected to a greater extent than men's, partly due to a high workload in women-dominated care and nursing professions.

  • Problems due to work. Occupations with a high proportion of women where a high proportion had problems during the pandemic are assistant nurses, nurses, primary school teachers, leisure educators and preschool teachers. Among the male-dominated professions are carpenters, masons and construction workers.

  • Sick leave. When the first corona wave reached its peak in April 2020, the number of started illnesses increased by 89 percent among women and 133 percent among men. The group with long-term sick leave due to covid-19 consists of 66 percent women and 34 percent men.

Covid impacts

Publication date: 21 December 2021

Last updated: 13 January 2023