Women are facing a slow reinsertion into the labor market

Note published on march 12, 2021, on El Economista, section Empresas by María del Pilar Martínez and Octavio Amador
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The prevailing imbalance in domestic chores during confinement and the closure of daycare centers and schools have complicated the reactivation of the female labor participation rate.

Almost a year after the outbreak of the labor crisis due to Covid-19 in Mexico, the participation of Mexican women in the labor market – already low – has recovered more slowly than that of men, while they also face longer terms of unemployment according to the latest data from the National Survey of Occupation and Employment  (ENOE), conducted by the National Institute of Geography and Statistics (Inegi).

In January, the percentage of women working or who are actively seeking employment in relation to the female population aged 15 years or older was of 40.5% (participation rate), a figure that is 4.3 percentage points lower than the one recorded in January 2020, while the participation percentage of men was of 73.3%, a level 2.8 points lower in comparison to 12 months earlier.

This slower recovery in female participation in labor has not only widened the gender labor gap, but also reflects that women have longer spells of unemployment because they face greater obstacles for being employed or for reincorporating into employment.

According to the ENOE for the month of January, the proportion of unemployed women whose unemployment situation is long-lasting is generally higher than that of men. Thus, women who have been unemployed for less than one month represented 38% of the total of unemployed, while in the case of men this percentage was of 41%. Looking at women who have been unemployed from one to three months, the percentage is of 30%, which is noticeably higher than the percentage of men in the same situation, which was of 23%,

In the line of unemployment of between three and six months, the percentage for men was of 14% versus 11% for women, but in a longer-term situation, in the line of unemployment with a duration of six months to one year, women surpass men with 12% versus 11% and in the line of those who have been unemployed for more than a year, women also surpass men with 3% against a two percent for men.

In this regard, Graciela Bensunsán, a specialist from the UAM-Xochimilco, stated that the two reasons for women being unable to insert themselves into a job are: first, that they have to attend to their household responsibilities – taking care of their children and of their parents – and, on the other hand, many of the activities in which they normally performed their jobs are now closed.

“There are many conditions that limit the entry of women into the work arena, many activities have been limited or closed for months, such as restaurants, hotels and the service sector in general; this obviously makes the pandemic more harmful for women than for men; apart from the fact that we were already carrying the structural inequality”, she explained.

In Mexico, for example, the percentage of women is greater in lodging services (60%), and in commerce (57%) (ENOE 1T2020). In addition to this, after the closure of schools and daycare centers, many mothers have had to assume greater responsibilities in the care of their children. In this context, the process for the recovery of jobs has been significantly lower for women than for men, explained Alicia Bárcena, Executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL).

“We are proposing a basic emergency income, equivalent to a poverty line, which is of 120 dollars per month, for women who left the labor market due to the pandemic. We have calculated that there are 13 million women, and adding a digital minimum basic basket of goods for 40 million homes, who are the ones that are not connected to the Internet.”

Meanwhile, Nadine Gasman, head of INMUJERES, said that it is necessary to “design a progressive care system with the help of the private sector in areas close to work centers, unifying the fragmented system in terms of quality, supervision and operation, and creating a minimum standard of quality in the training of caregivers ”, this with the objective of having the participation of women as a workforce grow more rapidly.

In relation to the above, human resources specialists recommended developing plans and programs to retain female talent once they decide to become mothers, since “there are women who cannot occupy managerial or directive positions because there are no schemes that allow them to be absent a reasonable time for their maternity leave and to be able to be reincorporated. Talent has been lost because of this, because it is difficult for many of them to return to the labor market”, said Blanya Correal, a specialist at DMAbogados.