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Why the coronavirus pandemic has different consequences for men and women

The Covid-19 pandemic has completely different consequences for men and women - and not only in terms of health. It would seem that the virus should not care who it infects. Why is gender so important? Tells Air force.

Photo: Shutterstock

This coronavirus spares no one - neither bus drivers nor prime ministers. Does he like people of a certain gender more? And how can this be? After all, a virus is a practically inanimate piece of drifting genetic material. He cannot consciously make a choice.

And yet, it affects different groups of the population in completely different ways. The most obvious difference is between men and women.

This difference is not only in the course of the disease itself, but also in its long-term consequences - for health and economic.

Difference in the course of the disease

One of the most striking differences is the mortality rate. For example, in the United States, twice as many men die as coronavirus than women.

In Western Europe, 69% of all deaths from coronavirus are men. The same is true in China and around the world.

Scientists from University College London keep a gender statistics on morbidity in countries around the world, trying to understand why such a difference. The reason is still unclear.

According to one theory, the response of the female immune system to the virus is stronger, says Philip Gulder, professor of immunology at Oxford University.

“The immune response to vaccines and infections is generally more aggressive and more effective in women than in men,” he says.

This is partly because women have two X chromosomes and men have one, which can be important when faced with the coronavirus.

“In particular, the protein that recognizes coronaviruses is encoded on the X chromosome,” Goulder continues. As a result, this protein is expressed as a double dose in many immune cells in women - unlike in men. And the immune response of the female body to the coronavirus, accordingly, increases. "

Another explanation is the different way of life for men and women. This is manifested, for example, in smoking, which affects the level of comorbidities - heart disease, chronic lung disease and cancer, says Goulder. All this affects the outcome of an infectious disease caused by coronavirus.

"This difference is especially noticeable in some countries - for example, in China, where 50% of men smoke and only 5% of women."

However, at this stage of the pandemic, we still cannot say unequivocally which of the reasons is more important - or, perhaps, both of them affect.

On the subject: You may have been ill with Covid-19 and not known about it: unobvious symptoms of coronavirus infection

Financial implications

There is, however, another important aspect of how a pandemic affects men and women in different ways.

Michelle Tertilt, an economist at the University of Mannheim, Germany, and colleagues are collecting evidence of this - from the example of US workers and women workers.

So, the so-called lockdown was already worth the work to a huge number of people, and the recession threatens the economy of many countries.

But in unemployment, men and women are not equal. The circumstances of this, however, are truly unique and, according to Tertilt, differ from a typical recession.

In the United States, 1,4 million people lost their jobs in March, the largest spike since 1975. Women suffered more - unemployment rose by 0,9% (for men - by 0,7%).

What is unusual about the current crisis is, among other things, that men usually suffer more from unemployment during a recession - because they are mainly employed in those areas of production that are closely related to economic cycles, such as construction or industry.

Women, by contrast, are more employed in industries such as health and education.

But now other factors influence employment. One of them is whether you are a key or important employee.

A team of scientists led by Tertilt considers key employees in the areas of healthcare, transport, law enforcement agencies (police), agriculture, fisheries, forestry, maintenance and repair.

According to this classification, 17% of women and 24% of men work in important sectors.

The second most important factor is whether people have the opportunity to work from home, “remotely”. It is clear that if a business analyst is quite capable of working remotely, then a bartender is not.

Tertilt found that more men are able to work from home - 28% (22% among women).

“If you think about it, this is not surprising: a lot of women work in restaurants, in the tourism sector. But all over the world restaurants and bars are closed and almost no one travels. ”

“From an economic perspective, the biggest hit is the low-paid, young working class,” says Natasha Mudhar, executive director and co-founder of The World We Want, an organization that calls itself a global movement dedicated to achieving UN goals for areas of sustainable development.

The pay gap between men and women exacerbates inequality: women not only lose their jobs faster, but they get less for it.

In the US, women earn only 85% of what men earn. In Australia this figure is 86%, and in India it is 75%.

The situation is even worse for women of certain races and nationalities: for example, in the USA black women earn 21% less than white women.

Single parents are even worse off. In the United States, according to Tertilt, there are 20 million, and three quarters of them are women.

“Just imagine - they won't be able to work,” Tertilt says. “Even if such a woman is a nurse or a doctor, even if she works in an important field for society, it doesn't matter if she has a child at home, she cannot leave him alone.”

Even if such parents have the ability to work remotely, it is not very realistic to assume that they are able to fully perform their duties when a small child constantly requires attention.

“This is especially true for single mothers,” says Tertilt. - Now they cannot hire a nanny or ask a grandmother or a neighbor to sit with the child. So they are losing their jobs. ”

The problem is that even in those countries where the government financially supports those who have lost their jobs (Great Britain, Germany, USA), such parents may not meet the criteria - for example, in the event that they quit their job before this scheme was put into effect.

On the subject: Scientists explain why men die more often from coronavirus than women

Revealed inequality

“All epidemics have different gender-specific consequences,” says Claire Wenham, assistant professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “The problem is that no one talked about it before, and politicians were not aware.”

Wenham and colleagues investigated the effects of Zika and Ebola outbreaks on men and women, and are now investigating what is happening with the new coronavirus.

One of the consequences of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone has been a significant leap in maternal mortality.

“We know from previous epidemics that all resources are usually devoted to fighting an outbreak,” says Wenham. "This means that the planned provision of medical services is interrupted."

On top of that, as a result of the pandemic, there are increasingly reports of domestic violence.

In France, for example, in the very first week of a lockdown, the number of such cases increased by a third, in Australia - by 75%, in Lebanon - twice.

And although domestic violence also affects men, women suffer the most: for example, in the United States they are more likely to be twice as likely to experience violence from a roommate. The risk of rape for women is 14 times higher.

“When you lock people at home during times of stress, when people don't have money, when they don't have a job, you don't have to be a scientist to understand why this leads to domestic violence,” says Wenham.

Nowadays, the picture is undeniably grim - for each gender in its own way.

For men, especially those belonging to older age groups, the most important concern is the possibility of becoming seriously ill and dying. For women who are more likely to recover by becoming infected, the consequences can last years to come.

According to Wenham, it is not too late for governments to take care of those who have suffered more economically than others. You can do a lot of things that will mitigate the financial blow to these people.

“We need to think about how to economically stimulate women during and after the pandemic, how to get them back to work,” she says. “For example, provide them with childcare services.”

However, Tertilt's research found light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, there are two rays of hope.

The first is a flexible approach to the workplace.

“Millions of entrepreneurs and companies are adjusting to work from home on the go,” she points out.

In March, in some areas of the United States, the volume of work performed remotely increased by 200%.

“Within certain limits, this can become the norm and make it easier to reconcile career and family,” she says. "It is women who will benefit from such a change in the business culture, since it is mainly women who look after the children in the family."

The second ray of hope is a possible reversal of roles during a lockdown, albeit a forced one.

“Imagine a family where the wife is a doctor in a hospital, at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus, and the husband works from home,” she says. “In such a family, the husband suddenly becomes the main child-care provider.”

Given that in 60% of American families this role is traditionally assigned to a woman, this will be a serious change with long-term consequences, Tertilt believes.

The experience of Germany and Sweden, where fathers have the opportunity to take leave in connection with the birth of a child, showed: this experience permanently changes the male approach to raising children.

“Even if the quarantine and self-isolation lasts a month or two, long-term consequences are inevitable,” Tertilt said. "And if it takes longer, the consequences will be even more serious."

Any crisis in health care exacerbates and exacerbates inequalities in various areas of life. Gender inequality is just one example.

For example, in the United States, cities with large African-American populations bear the brunt of the pandemic.

However, this highlights a problem that existed long before the pandemic - inequality in access to health care. Black Chicagoans, for example, live on average nine years less than their white neighbors.

Those with concomitant health problems are more at risk of dying from Covid-19. And diabetes and cardiovascular disease are disproportionately affecting African Americans.

Yes, the virus does not spare anyone, but this does not mean that all members of society experience the same risk.

Quite the opposite is true: this virus clearly shows inequalities in health care - much clearer than ever.

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