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Minna Canth’s Day 2021: a year into the pandemic

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March 19 is Minna Canth’s Day in Finland. The day celebrates Minna Canth, a writer and social activist from the 19th century. The day also celebrates gender equality. Last year around Minna Canth’s Day, the world was a few weeks into the global Corona pandemic. 

In our post to celebrate Minna Canth’s Day last year, we examined how the restrictions placed then by the Finnish government affected genders differently due to the high gender segregation of the Finnish labor market.

Now we are a year into the Corona pandemic and Minna Canth’s Day is upon us again. Let’s continue the conversation we started a year ago.

Global trends

From a medical perspective, men bear the brunt of the virus. While there doesn’t seem to be differences in the proportions of men and women infected with COVID-19, men are more likely to require intensive care and lose their lives

Women, instead, have taken most of the labor market hit. Women are in the front lines fighting the Corona pandemic globally as well. They are overrepresented in health systems. Women make up almost 70 % of the global health care workforce. And make around 85 % of nurses and midwives and about 90 % of long-term care workers.

While we do not yet know the long-term labor market effects of the pandemic, in the short term women have been harder hit than men. Women are more likely to work in industries that have been severely impacted by the pandemic. These are the tourist industry, retail, accommodation services, and food and beverage service industries. 

Before the pandemic, women on average spent six more hours than men on unpaid childcare every week. With Corona-related school closures, this has risen to 7.7 hours per week more than men. 

In the US, the deviation in the effects the pandemic has had on the employment of men and women is particularly stark. “Normal” recessions often affect men’s employment more but this Corona-led recession has been a clear deviation from the norm. At its worst in the US, women’s unemployment rose by 2.9 percentage points more than men’s. 

Finland no exception

Although Finland has thus far fared relatively well both in terms of the pandemic and the effect the pandemic has had on the economy, the global labor market trends are showing here as well.

In one of our previous posts, we discussed the Finnish job market in 2020. As we explained, the number of reported job openings fell by 11 % from the year before. The number of job seekers, in turn, rose by 38 % from 2019.

Hanna Sutela from Statistics Finland explains that all recessions affect the labor market situation of men and women differently. Men’s employment is usually hit early and fast. After the initial hit, men’s employment usually also bounces back relatively quickly. 

In Finland, this is because men more often work in sectors and industries that react fast to up and downshifts in the economy. This means, for example, the export sector and the construction industry.

Women, in turn, work in industries and sectors that react more slowly. They work, for example, in retail and the service sector more generally. This time the situation is different. 

This time women’s employment has taken a faster and harder hit than men’s. For example, in the second quarter of 2020, 46 000 fewer women were employed than the year before. The equivalent number for men was 33 000. 

During 2020, there were 45 % more men unemployed than during 2019. Whereas there were 53 % more women unemployed during 2020 than during 2019. Also, the number of women furloughed during the year was higher than the number of furloughed men. 

What about the long-term effects?

We don’t know whether the different effects the pandemic has had on the careers of men and women have long-term consequences.

In Finland, the government launched a research project that will study the effects of the Corona pandemic on gender equality in Finland. The project began at the start of this year and it has four subprojects.

The first subproject examines the health and wellbeing effects of the pandemic. It studies the immediate as well as the indirect health effects. Immediate effects have to do with infection and death rates. Indirect effects, in turn, with access to care and treatments.  They will also examine these effects on different subgroups of men and women. This subproject is in the hands of the Finnish institute for health and welfare.

The second subproject examines questions related to employment, the labor market, and working conditions. Their research questions include issues we’ve covered here: changes in employment and unemployment. They will also study the gendered impacts of remote work and look at how the pandemic has influenced wellbeing at work. A third question they will look at is the gendered impact of the ways companies reacted to the changes the pandemic brought about. Statistics Finland is responsible for this subproject.

The third project looks at the gender impacts of the economic policy decisions that the Finnish government made during the pandemic in Finland. They will particularly look at the gendered impacts of social security changes, subsidies to companies, and economic stimuli.  The University of Tampere is responsible for this subproject.

The fourth subproject looks at the impact of the pandemic on families, children and students, and their wellbeing. They will, for example, look at the distribution of care work within families, the pandemic’s impact on single-parent families, its effects on gender-based violence and domestic violence, and students’ wellbeing and their conditions for learning. This subproject is in the hands of the Finnish institute for health and welfare.

The project will run until May 2022. So most likely by the next Minna Canth’s Day in 2022, we already know much more than today.

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