The coronavirus pandemic also affects equality

There is a lot of news about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy. That, of course, is important, because the effects are really great, they are far-reaching and will last a long time.

Less attention has been paid to corona’s non-economical impacts – for example, the effects of the corona on equality between women and men, women and female-dominated sectors, and men and male-dominated sectors are different. Some may find it somewhat pointless to recall equality in the nightmare situation caused by the coronavirus, but nonetheless – and so that equality does not take a giant leap backwards – in this exceptional time we must also bear in mind the gender perspective.

Equality is not a detached or separate issue that is “addressed somewhere”, but in all preparation, decision-making and implementation, a gender impact assessment must be carried out and measures targeted accordingly.

Many have lost their jobs for shorter or longer periods of time due to the coronavirus pandemia. Layoffs and co-operation procedures initiated in many workplaces are causing uncertainty for employees. More women than men work in fixed-term and part-time jobs, which puts women at a disadvantage in the labour market. This is especially true in crisis situations.

At the same time, on the other hand, the female-dominated social and health care sector is overloaded. It has been stated in the media by several parties that the social and health care sector is “at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus” in dealing with and caring for patients exposed to and affected by the virus. The workload is heavy and the risk of becoming ill themselves increases. They deserve all our support and appreciation for their work. Workplaces must ensure that work is always carried out safely and in good working conditions, including in exceptional situations.

Finnish women and men participate in working life almost as much, but women still bear the majority of family and care responsibilities, both for young children and other relatives.

Finnish women and men participate in working life almost as much, but women still bear the majority of family and care responsibilities, both for young children and other relatives. As the coronavirus pandemic makes more work, especially in the female-dominated social and health sectors, and calls for more flexibility, it must be ensured that those working in these fields also have the opportunity to balance work and family in the best possible way.

At the moment, balancing work and family is really difficult for many. For example, how do you combine three-shift work, distance-learning students at home and caring for elderly relatives at risk because of the coronavirus? Especially in a prolonged situation, this causes inconvenience to many.

Care must be taken to ensure that those who can now be assigned to other jobs and to other workplaces, as required by exceptional circumstances, on the basis of work obligations, are also able to combine their work and family life. A large proportion of those subject to the obligation to work are women.

Gender equality is a human right and a fundamental right.

It is understandable that the coronavirus is the number one topic of conversation and dominates the media. Yet equality and promoting equality must not be forgotten. The Finnish government has included in its government program the goal of making Finland a leading country in equality. The goal is very worthwhile and in support of it, a number of concrete measures have been included in the government program to move towards this goal.

No one knew when the government program was being created that the coronavirus pandemic would change and complicate everyone’s lives and that it would also make it more difficult to implement the government program. Coping with the corona crisis will take up such a huge amount of resources that it will have a slowing effect on the implementation of the equality measures included in the government’s program. This is an unfortunate fact. Nevertheless, it is important that the promotion of equality does not stop altogether. Let’s do what can be done in these circumstances and as on schedule as possible.

Gender equality is a human right and a fundamental right. Its implementation must also be secured in exceptional situations.

Anja Lahermaa
The author is STTK’s equality lawyer.

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