From Mancession to Shecession: Women's Employment in Regular and Pandemic Recessions

Abstract

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?

Publication
Prepared for the 36th NBER Macro Annual