Pandemic exacerbating gender disparities at work

An increase in workload in sectors where women are highly represented, like retail, during the pandemic may explain why women give worse ratings than men to their work conditions. Keystone / Ennio Leanza

Women are the big losers of the Covid-19 crisis and telework is a “double-edged sword”, according to an annual barometer of working conditions in Switzerland.

This content was published on November 26, 2020 - 16:21

Even before the pandemic hit, women were rating their workplace conditions worse than men by 1.6-1.8 index points. But this difference has more than doubled in 2020, to 3.3-3.8 index points, the independent workers’ umbrella organisation Travail.Suisse said on Thursday.

This can be explained by an increase in workload in sectors where women are highly represented – such as the retail trade and healthcare services – over the course of the pandemic.

Healthcare is the only sector to receive lower scores than in previous years in all areas covered in the barometer.  

Working from home has both its advantages and disadvantages, according to the representative survey of 1,500 employees across Switzerland. Respondents appreciated the peace and quiet of telework and being able to scrap commuting from their schedule, but they viewed less favourably shorter or non-existent breaks and being permanently reachable.

On a more positive note, internal communication with employees had improved during the health crisis, said Travail.Suisse, which conducted its survey in June and July 2020.

Plummeting job numbers

The survey results came as the Federal Statistical Office published its latest employment figures, which showed the number of jobs fell by 0.4% between September 2019 and September 2020.

The sectors hardest hit include manufacturing and the services sector, notably hotels and restaurants. Taking seasonal adjustments into account, there were 5.122 million people in employment, an increase of 0.5% over the previous quarter.

Regionally, canton Ticino posted the biggest decline in jobs (-1.5%). Zurich was the only canton to experience an increase (+0.8%).

The prospects for finding work were also bleak: the number of vacancies fell by 15.1%, to 11,900 job openings.

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