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The situation of women in times of pandemic

By Vice Chair of PS Chile, Karina Delfino Mussa

Women have historically been in a situation of inequality, which has translated into different areas of daily life: in the work, educational and pension systems, and as victims of violence, among others.
In the labor field, it is expressed in the precarization of their jobs, many of them are in the informality and are badly paid, without work contracts, without social security payments and without unemployment insurance, among other dimensions. In the case of Chile, informal work is 30.4%, however, if observed by gender, 26.3% are men and 31% women. This shows that most informal work is done by women. On the other hand, in our country the gender wage gap remains high, reaching values of over 20%.
In addition, it should be noted that women are the ones who, in a much higher proportion, perform domestic tasks in the home and care for others. It is important to note that 97% of those who are not working for permanent family reasons – for example, caring for a sick person – are women.
With regard to pensions, according to the latest report of the Superintendency of Pensions, women receive 39% fewer pensions than men. Thus, the average retirement for Chilean women is only CH$176,856 [206 USD].

Another of the most complex and desolate areas is the situation of violence that many women experience on a daily basis. At least a third declare that they have been victims of violence at some time in their lives. And, in the most extreme case, such as femicides, so far in 2020 there are already 10 completed femicides and 27 frustrated ones. On this same date last year there were 11 completed femicides, which proves that gender violence is far from being eradicated.

The inequality that is expressed in the field of work, pensions and in the victims of violence shows only a part of what women experience on a daily basis. And, all these inequalities have been accentuated with the crisis that our country and the world is going through today because of the pandemic declared by Covid-19.
In the case of workers with precarious jobs, one of the most invisible jobs and one that has been left in a situation of greater lack of protection, has been that of female domestic workers. A large number of them do not have a work contract or social security, and to protect their own lives, they have not attended their workplaces since the beginning of the pandemic. There is no doubt that the State must take responsibility for this situation of precariousness and lack of protection, which affects women to a great extent.

For their part, and in the context of the social isolation we are experiencing, many people are developing other ways of working, mainly through teleworking. We know that it is women who carry out, to a greater extent, domestic tasks within the home. The context of teleworking brings with it the precarization of women, often having to deal with domestic work within the home, care of others and teleworking itself.
Finally, and the most complex aspect of the precarious situation that women live in the world, and particularly in our country, is the reality of the victims of violence within their homes. The social isolation and the “stay at home”, for many women, has become a hell, in the daily coexistence with their aggressor. The UN has already spoken out against the increase in domestic violence in the face of the coronavirus and called on governments to take a close look at the rise in complaints of violence within the home. In view of this, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs must act quickly and strengthen measures to protect women who are currently victims of gender-based violence. To this end, at least the following measures should be taken: increase investment in online help services and facilitate communication with women victims of violence; establish alert systems; strengthen shelters so that women do not have to live with their aggressor; expand communication campaigns aimed at preventing violence and informing women of the channels they have to make safe complaints.

The costs of this pandemic should not be paid by the workers, it cannot be paid by the poorest, it cannot be paid by the women who today live in hell in the place that should be the safest for them, their homes. Our minimum ethical imperative is to force the State to provide welfare and ensure dignity for those who are going through difficult times today.