MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s steps to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus are putting a disproportionate burden on women, who do the lion’s share of housework and care work and tend to be employed in the sectors hardest hit by quarantine measures.
Feminists are urging the Mexican government to include the perspective of gender as it crafts a response to the pandemic and the accompanying economic fallout.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Mexico reached 717 on Saturday and the death toll increased to 12.
Women perform more than 76 percent of the domestic chores and care work done in Mexico, according to figures from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).
Maria Eugenia Licona, who lives in Mexico City with her husband and the couple’s 26-year-old son, told EFE that the money she used to earn selling crafts has disappeared as potential customers focus on buying only necessities, forcing the family to get by on two incomes instead of three.
Women make up more than 57 percent of the employees in Mexican retailing and are 59 percent of the workforce in the hospitality sector, while nearly 68 percent of those who work in health care and social assistance are female, INEGI’s data show.
But the most important statistic in the current situation may be that 57 percent of Mexican women who work outside the home are part of the informal economy.
One woman facing a potential choice between protecting her health and supporting her family is Lizeth Galvan, who has a food stand in downtown Mexico City.
“It’s fine because they (restrictions) are measures that should be taken, but we who are vendors don’t have support. So we have no way to survive, because we go out every day to earn our living,” she told EFE.
Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, stirred controversy earlier this week when he said that women bear more responsibility then men for taking care of sick family members.
“It’s a fact. Above all, it is known that daughters take care of their parents. We men can be more detached, but daughters are always attached to their mothers, to their fathers,” the president told a press conference Tuesday.
Barbara Gonzalez, a political scientist with the group Mujeres+Mujeres (Women+Women), criticized Lopez Obrador for suggesting that women should take on additional unpaid labor.
“Yes, this is the reality in Mexico, but it’s not a reality that should be normalized by the state. And if we see that the crisis is going to exacerbate this inequality, this disparity, then what we would expect from the government are measures to reduce the impact,” she said in an interview with EFE.
The incidence of coronavirus in Mexico started to rise sharply after millions of women took part on March 8-9 in marches and a nationwide strike to demand gender equality on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
Gonzalez said the demand for equality is more important than ever as Mexico seeks to cope with the pandemic, pointing to the need for flexible labor policies and provisions to care for children with the schools closed.
“We will continue insisting that the gender perspective and differential impact be considered in the response to the crisis,” she said.