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Accepted Paper:

Income shocks, women’s agency, and the gendered impact of Covid-19  


Shandana Khan Mohmand (Institute of Development Studies)
Sarah Khan (Yale University)
Ali Cheema (LUMS University)

Paper short abstract:

We look at the impact of the pandemic on intra-household dynamics and women’s agency in Lahore to find that women’s housework burden has increased significantly with no increase in their agency. There is variation in this across households depending on the size of the income shock experienced.

Paper long abstract:

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted women’s lives within their households for three distinct but interrelated reasons — the health shock created by the pandemic, the economic shock created by lockdowns, and the increased focus on the household as the location of all economic and personal activities. Studies look at the impact of these shocks in contexts where women have a sizeable presence in the labour force and have faced the impact on both professional and personal fronts. The scholarship on intra-household dynamics in contexts where women’s labour force participation is limited has not received equal attention. How have women’s lives and agency been affected where their lives were already confined to the home, and where there may now be more help available within the household? Additionally, does this impact vary across households in the city, and if yes, along which dimensions? We ask these questions in the metropolitan context of Lahore (Pakistan) using data collected through a phone survey from almost 3000 respondents in Aug-Oct 2020. We find that women’s burden of housework has increased significantly, despite the fact that men are now at home more, indicating that the division of housework is a deeply gendered phenomenon. There is, however, variation in this — women who live in households that have experienced a greater income shock during the pandemic and those where men hold more regressive views on gender equality are more likely to have experienced an increase in the burden of housework, and a decreased compliance with prenatal visits.

Panel P19a
COVID-19 and global development challenges: 'unsettling' multidimensional poverty? I