A study undertaken by Economix Consulting Group (ECG), a niche consulting and analytics firm, unveiled a research report on the impact of COVID-19 on urban working women in India. ECG conducted a Pan-India survey among urban working women of various professions ranging from Private Sector, Academic Professionals, Entrepreneurs and, Medical professionals to understand what effect the pandemic has had on their lives. The survey was conducted across all major cities in India in the target group age of 20-60 years.
The study examined the changes brought about by the pandemic in various aspects like working status, workload (professional and personal), productivity, income, job losses, place of work, and domestic support systems.
Some of the Key Findings of the Study on Working Women in India
More Women Are Working Part Time Now:
- Between the two waves, 14% of respondents have been forced to move from full time to part time employment.
- 60% of respondents working part-time have experienced a decrease in income, compared to 37% of full-time employees. Part-time working women appear to be affected more by the pandemic’s effects perhaps due to their temporary status.
Work Hours Have Changed Drastically For Women
- In terms of working hours and days, the number of women working part-time has increased as 31% of respondents report working less than 5 hours a day.
- 10% more respondents now work less than 4 days a week. This may be attributed to declining business activity, lack of time due to household chores.
- Respondents working more than 10 hours a day, or having no fixed timings, rose from 4% to 14%. There is also a 3% increase in women working all 7 days of a week.
- Weekly schedules have been affected as those working 5-6 days per week declined from 82% to 68%.
- Disruptions in routine have made typical schedules uncommon, and respondents are having a conventional workday of 7-10 hours has shrunk from 57% to 35%.
Women Now Prefer Personal Transport Or No Travel:
- As expected from lockdowns and social distancing, 64% of respondents have started working from home after the pandemic, compared to 14% before.
- A surprising 36% continue to commute outside for work, commonly using two-wheelers and cars, and eschewing public transport altogether.
- Of those working women who travelled on work pre-COVID19, 78% report a complete stop.
Women Are Working Harder:
- Of the 57% of respondents who reported a change in workload after the pandemic, a significant 73% have experienced an increase. Common reasons appear to be more significant preparation due to the adoption of digital mediums, reduced staff at work, and increased working hours.
- Interestingly, the survey brought out some diverse views. 35% of respondents reported an increase in productivity. Common reasons cited for the increase in productivity: Absence of commuting time and extended work hours. On the other hand, 32% of respondents report a decrease in productivity. Common reasons cited for decline in productivity: Household chores and network issues.
Women Are Earning Lesser:
- 44% of respondents report an adverse change in income levels after the pandemic. The impact is being felt by reduction in salary or perks, no pay, or reduction in business income.
- The effect of a decrease in income for women since COVID19 highlights reduced household income and an increase in “unpaid” work (domestic chores).
Women Are Working More At Home As Well:
- Despite a significant majority employing domestic help, almost 50% of the respondents indicate an increased workload, commonly citing unavailability of domestic support and additional responsibilities towards children’s online education.
- Interestingly, of those women working from office before the pandemic and have since been working from home, only 17% feel that continuing to work from home is better.
Women Now Have Lesser Time for Hobbies And More Stress:
- While 70% of respondents pursued hobbies such as fitness, art, reading, etc., before the pandemic, almost a third report being unable to continue these pursuits.
- 52% report worsening mental health since COVID-19, with many anecdotes of challenging experiences at home.
- Working women were also questioned about their well-being relative to working men as well as stay-at-home women. 60% felt they had it more challenging than stay-at-home women, and 53% felt similarly to working men.
How does the regional comparison look like?
Work From Home (WFH)
West displayed the highest indifference between WFH and office at 40% (their preference for working only from office is also at 40%). However, understandably, they also reported the highest decrease in working from office during the pandemic as also the highest increase in WFH at 68% and 62% respectively.
In contrast, Pandemic or no pandemic, “work means office” for East & South – East and South India had the highest share of respondents working from office during the pandemic at 32% and 26% respectively. These are also the respondents who showed the highest preference for working from office post-pandemic, at 44% and 49% respectively.
Whereas “Home” is the happening place for those in North with the largest share of respondents WFH, both before and after the pandemic at 27% and 73% respectively. They also showed the highest preference for continuing to WFH post-pandemic at 32%. Interestingly, 22% of respondents from North India felt that stay-at-home women have struggled more than working women since the pandemic, compared to 60% of women across the respondent pool believing the opposite is true.
Stress and Mental Health: Linked to loss of income?
Disturbingly, all regions reported an increase in stress and deterioration of mental health. The largest share of respondents suffering from a decrease in income, and a worsening of mental health are from South India, at 41% and 60% respectively.
In comparison, these figures are 35% and 49% for North, 35% and 44% for West and 25% and 30% for East. Speaking about the study, Latha Ramanathan, founder and CEO, Economix Consulting Group (ECG) said, “There have been multiple reports across the world of women being disproportionately affected due to the pandemic, on employment, income and mental health. Our study of urban Indian women resonates that – working hours and work load seem to have increased considerably, and some women have even cited that they are working all 7 days of the week. Furthermore, the respondents have reported a decrease in income and increase in mental health issues, possibly due to increased stress levels.”