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Pandemic Widens Gender Gaps Globally and in MENA Region, Study Shows

Pandemic Widens Gender Gaps Globally and in MENA Region, Study Shows

Research finds “intensified levels of pre-existing widespread inequalities between women and men during the COVID-19 pandemic”

A newly published study on gender gaps caused by the indirect effects of COVID-19 warns that the pandemic could reverse progress made toward gender equality.

The comprehensive peer-reviewed study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and published March 2 in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet, found that although men have higher rates than women of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death, women have experienced larger negative social and economic impacts than men due to the pandemic.

The study looked at indicators of gender disparity worldwide and by region related to vaccine hesitancy and uptake, health care services, economic and work-related concerns, education, and safety at home and in the community. Publicly available data gathered between March 2020 and September 2021 from 193 countries representing all geographic regions and income levels across the globe were examined.

The study, looking at the results of five surveys on the question of employment loss, concluded that over the period examined, 26% of women and 20.4% of men worldwide reported a loss of work. None of the surveys showed men being more likely than women to lose employment either globally or in any region of the world. The largest gender gap for employment loss was in the Middle East and North Africa, where women were 1.52 times more likely than men to report loss of work.

In March 2020, women were 1.8 times as likely as men to forgo work for the purpose of caring for others. But by September 2021, women were 2.4 times as likely as men to forgo work for this reason. The study looked at the results of two surveys examining this question; both showed this gender gap globally and in every region.

The study, examining the results of two surveys, found that, globally, women were more likely than men to report increases in care for others. One of the studies found that in the MENA region, men were more likely than women to report an increase in care for others. The other survey found no significant gender gap regarding this issue in the MENA region.

The same two surveys showed women are more likely than men to report an increase in chores, both globally and in the MENA region.

Women were 23% more likely than men globally to report that they perceived an increase in gender-based violence in their communities during the pandemic, and more likely than men to report this in the MENA region, as well. Globally, 53.7% of women and 43.7% of men said they perceived an increase in gender-based violence.

In January 2021, women reported a higher rate of vaccine hesitancy (25.6%) than men (22.3%). That difference may seem small but is statistically significant. By September 2021, men and women globally did not differ significantly in terms of vaccine hesitancy or uptake. However, this varied by geography, with some countries and regions showing higher vaccination rates among women and others showing higher rates among men. In the MENA region, women were more likely than men to be vaccine-hesitant, and only about 90% as likely as men to be fully vaccinated. The MENA region also showed lower than average rates of vaccine uptake overall.

In three surveys examined by the study, women were also more likely than men to report a disruption in their health care globally. One of these surveys showed the same gender gap specifically in the MENA region, while the other two surveys showed no significant difference in health care disruption between men and women in the MENA region.

Women were more likely than men to report a disruption in preventive care globally, but no significant gender difference was seen in the MENA region.

Access to medication was also more disrupted by the pandemic for women than for men, both globally and in the MENA region.

The study also looked at the results of three surveys examining whether access to health products was disrupted. One survey showed that men were more likely than women to report a disruption in access to health products, both globally and in the MENA region. Another survey showed the opposite result globally, with no data specifically about the MENA region. The third survey showed no significant difference between men and women, either globally or in any region.

Survey responders (typically parents) reported that 6% of learners dropped out of school during the pandemic. Female learners were 21% more likely than male learners to drop out of school for reasons other than school closures. But controlling for social, demographic, and geographic factors, gender was no longer associated with increased school dropout rates. Still, women were 33% more likely than men to report that their children had dropped out of school. The MENA region had the highest school dropout rate, and in the MENA region, male learners were more likely than female learners to drop out of school during the pandemic.

Only 50.4% of learners were reported to have adequate access to online learning technologies. Women and girl learners were 11% more likely than men and boy learners to be reported to have adequate access to online learning.

The team, co-led by Dr. Luisa Flor and Dr. Joseph Friedman, concludes that “the most significant gender gaps identified in our study show intensified levels of pre-existing widespread inequalities between women and men during the COVID-19 pandemic. Political and social leaders should prioritize policies that enable and encourage women to participate in the labor force and continue their education, thereby equipping and enabling them with greater ability to overcome the barriers they face.”

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 2:35 pm Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.

CountryConfirmed CasesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Afghanistan175,5257,636158,0349,855
Algeria265,3466,860177,95580,531
Bahrain532,2651,462514,12116,682
Cyprus341,383886124,370216,127
Djibouti15,56418915,35916
Egypt493,65824,257423,45745,944
Iran7,113,591138,5726,761,892213,127
Iraq2,311,23825,0902,262,12224,026
Israel3,690,98110,3223,634,20246,457
Jordan1,654,67713,8821,572,38668,409
Kuwait624,5732,549617,0464,978
Lebanon1,081,46310,176967,949103,338
Libya499,4656,326480,95912,180
Mauritania58,65698157,64431
Morocco1,161,84816,0291,144,3371,482
Oman386,0034,250377,4764,277
Pakistan1,516,78930,2911,468,44918,049
Palestinian Territories579,3485,305568,5475,496
Qatar358,821672356,5771,572
Saudi Arabia748,3119,014729,6619,636
Somalia26,4001,34813,18211,870
Sudan61,6434,865N/AN/A
Syria55,1933,10548,8013,287
Tunisia1,017,90727,989976,83913,079
Turkey14,458,88195,95413,951,247411,680
United Arab Emirates884,3542,302846,69535,357
Yemen11,7832,1398,827817
Total40,125,666452,45138,258,1341,358,303

 

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