The effects of the Corona Crisis on Women

Whether it was plunging into poverty overnight or seeing our wealth triple like in the case of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the CoronaVirus pandemic has affected all of us in some way.

COVID-19 has painted a clear picture of the inequalities within society, especially those of gender inequality.

Reported by Akhalya

1 in 3 women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence, usually by an intimate partner. This has only been exacerbated by the Corona Virus pandemic. 2 women are killed every week due to violence within the household, this has increased 3-fold during the pandemic. Women who live with domestic abuse, afraid of contracting the disease and with restrictions on socialising implemented, do not leave the house.

With austerity cuts to local public services all over the world, domestic violence shelters and helplines have been slowly reduced over the years. Additionally, lack of funding in police services has resulted in negligence in attending emergency calls. However, the need for these services have increased as women and girls are forced to stay indoors with their abusers with limited access to external help.

In this pandemic, women are more likely to be furloughed as the majority of women work in hospitality, retail or leisure. With the UK government helping their big business friends by encouraging return to work in unsafe conditions, women are more likely to work in areas with higher exposure to Covid-19; in a hospital, care homes or in retail.

Working class women predominantly take on the caring roles within the family, working double shifts as they take on their childcare responsibilities and their day job. It is estimated that the unpaid domestic work, predominantly taken on by women, amounted to approximately £126 billion, saving the Capitalist class vast sums of money in free labour. Such responsibilities mean that carers, often women, have to work in sectors that are more flexible, commonly providing zero-hour contracts and lower wages.

At the beginning of the first National Lockdown in Britain, when schools were closed, working class families had to make decisions for childcare. Childcare services are becoming even more unaffordable in the UK, with its services being the one of the most expensive – second only to New Zealand.

Social distancing rules prevent informal childcare such as the use of grandparents or neighbours, so working class women, who usually earn the low wages, have to give up work to look after their children. For single parents, there is no such choice available. Later, when the assault on the workforce in the form of redundancies swept the country, a major factor considered was whether the worker had child caring responsibilities and therefore make them less profitable for the big bosses through this.

As the pandemic pursues and the economy, the worst in over 300 years, more services are closing down, with domestic services, mostly worked in by women, closing businesses due to unprofitability. This further restricts working class women who rely on these services to be able to go to work.

Women from middle or ruling class families can afford to pay for the unreasonably high prices of childcare. The Tories have put forward a retraining programme as a way of putting a plaster on a broken bone. They say this will alleviate the unemployment crisis that they have unleashed onto the working class. However, there are no jobs available, the mass redundancies in nearly all sectors mean that a person has to compete with thousands of others for one job.

Within the Tamil and south Asian community, women’s oppression is further augmented within those from the oppressed castes. Women from oppressed castes face even more oppression as society requires them to be submissive and take sole responsibility of the domestic duties at home despite having a fulltime job. During the pandemic, caste based violence, especially in India has increased dramatically as the oppressed caste are blamed and attacked for the pandemic. The women of the oppressed caste often work in menial work such as cremating dead bodies, and cleaning open sewage without protective equipment, exposing them to the virus.

In Sri Lanka, garment factory workers are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, where health guidelines are ignored and the employees are not provided with health and safety measures to maintain social distance during working hours. Factory workers in some cases also have to report to work even if they are ill. These places of work consist of almost 75% female workforce, making the virus considerably more likely to be contracted by women.

Migrant domestic workers from Sri Lanka, often work in appalling conditions in the Middle East. During this pandemic they have been laid off, often left stranded in makeshift camps until they can be deported to Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government, however, has halted the entry of all migrant workers, leaving them more vulnerable to infection and without any income. Worsening the conditions of those already on poverty wages.

Within a socialist society we would not have to compete for jobs and use oppression to improve living standards. By running public services on a worker’s led democratically independent basis, we can socialise childcare for the needs of the society, alleviate the unpaid domestic responsibilities and provide services for the refuge of domestic violence victims.

The police must be publicly owned and democratically controlled by workers, funded sufficiently and provided with adequate training to deal with domestic violence issues. The recent public spending injected into the economy to prop up the capitalist class has been crystal clear in the potential of the resources available, we must fight collectively to win the concessions from the capitalist class and win over the socialist future.

Tamil Solidarity stands in solidarity with all the oppressed persons and demands a stop to the cuts to vital public services that are needed more than ever during this pandemic.