The Labor Gap in Colombia as a Consequence of COVID-19

More than 2.5 million women were unemployed in the last year and the majority are engaged in domestic jobs.

The Woman Post | Valentina Ibarra

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The COVID-19 pandemic is generating an economic crisis worldwide, with an increase in unemployment and informality due to restrictions and quarantines. Although the impact is global, women are the most affected by the situation. Not only because they are losing their jobs, but also because the level of unpaid work and housework is increasing. According to UN Women, before the pandemic, women performed three-quarters of the unpaid work in the world. Now, during the health emergency, it is estimated that these figures doubled.

In Colombia, data is not encouraging either. According to the National Administrative Department of Statistics of Colombia (DANE), more than 2.5 million women were unemployed in the last year. For every unemployed man, there are two women in the same position. Also, by leaving their paid jobs, they are engaged in unpaid work. 62.9% of inactive women are engaged in domestic work, while the proportion of men is only 13.2%. On the contrary, the majority of men, 50.1%, dedicate themselves to studying, while only 24.7% of women carry out the same activity (DANE, 2020). This means that unemployment is hitting the sexes to varying degrees, sending girls home while boys have the opportunity to study more.


Even when you are employed, the situation does not improve. DANE also reported that the daily work hours per week are different between men and women. For women, hours increased from 62.8 in 2019 to 63.1 in 2020, while for men it decreased from 55.3 in 2019 to 53.4 in 2020. The gap already existed, but the pandemic is getting worse the situation. Without a true public policy focused on attacking the gender roles assigned to domestic work and promoting the hiring of women, the gap between the sexes will undoubtedly continue to widen.

One of the reasons why women are less employed is discrimination based on their ability to have children and what this implies. Paying for maternity leave and the idea that children take up so much time promotes the idea that they will not be able to succeed in their field. Keeping women at home with closed schools reinforces these ideas, as they need to be teachers, caregivers, and workers. Unfortunately, men are not perceived as caretakers of their children, even when domestic work should be divided equally. The cultural change necessary to generate this idea may take some time, but efforts must begin immediately.

The road ahead is not easy, the existing gap continues to widen and discrimination against women worsens. As we raise awareness of the need for equal roles within households, governments around the world must focus their work on eliminating workplace discrimination while developing strategies to reduce household chores, such as opening schools. Colombia is just one case, but it sure is not the only one. The consequences of not acting now can be irreversible.

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