From Mancession to Shecession: Women's Employment in Regular and Pandemic Recessions
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We examine the impact of the global recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s versus men’s employment. Whereas recent recessions in advanced economies had a disproportionate impact on men’s employment, giving rise to the moniker “mancessions,” we show that the pandemic recession of 2020 was a “shecession” with larger employment declines among women in most countries. We examine the causes behind this pattern using micro data from several national labor force surveys, and show that both the composition of women’s employment across industries and occupations as well as increased childcare needs during closures of schools and daycare centers made important contributions. Gender gaps in the employment impact of the pandemic arise almost entirely among workers who are unable to work from home. Among telecommuters a different kind of gender gap arises: women working from home during the pandemic spent more work time also doing childcare and experienced greater productivity reductions than men. We identify two key challenges for future research. First, why is the pandemic gender gap pervasive, i.e., why did women experience larger employment reductions than men even after accounting for industry/occupation and childcare effects? Second, how will the pandemic shape gender equality in a post-pandemic labor market that will likely continue to be characterized by pervasive telecommuting?
We thank Suzanne Bellue, Kwok Yan Chiu, and Laura Montenbruck for excellent research assistance and the German Research Foundation (through the CRC-TR-224 project A3 and the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz-Prize) and the National Science Foundation for their financial support. We thank Laura Pilossoph and Loukas Karabarbounis for excellent discussions and Steve Davis and Claudia Goldin for helpful comments. We thank Katja Möhring and Ulrich Krieger for help and access to the German data and Hans-Martin von Gaudecker for help with the Dutch data. This paper is also based on data from Eurostat, EU-LFS, 1998-2019. The responsibility for all conclusions drawn from the data lies entirely with the authors. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.