While the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened everyone’s health, its impact has been different for men and women, reflecting underlying gender inequalities. A new EuroHealthNet Policy Précis examines the links between gender, health, and inequalities during the pandemic and before. It also looks at practices from Austria, Italy, Finland and Ireland that address those inequalities.
The EU has tools for action on gender equality, for example the European Pillar of Social Rights and its Implementation Action Plan that is expected to be launched today, together with the Work-Life Balance Directive and the EU Gender Equality Strategy. It is now time for these tools to be used at EU and national levels to address the pathways that lead to gender-based health inequalities.
Men are 1.3 times more likely to die from COVID-19 once infected. Yet women face higher exposure to the virus and stress-induced mental health challenges, as they make up the majority of frontline workers. Women’s health is also more likely to be challenged by job insecurity, poverty, the increased burden of informal labour, and decreased access to health, social, and anti-violence services.
The gendered impacts of COVID-19 mirror pre-existing health and social and economic inequalities. While men generally have worse health outcomes, they are less likely to visit a doctor. Women, on the other hand, live longer than men but often spend those years in poor health, with disability, and in poverty.
The new publication Making the Link: Gender Equality and Health examines the pathways in which systematic disparities, such as the employment gap and the digital gender divide, lead to inequalities in health and social and economic wellbeing across the life course. It explores how the current pandemic further magnifies these inequalities. Examples of good practices from EU Member States illustrate how countries can move forward. These include anti-violence centres that also rehabilitate the perpetrators of violence, and gender-sensitive workplace health promotion.
“Gendered health inequalities are not only unjust, they also affect our economies. To create solutions across policy domains we need systematic collection, and analysis of gender- and socio-economically-segregated data in areas such as health, education, employment, social services, income and child-care. This includes looking at and beyond cisgender people. Monitoring such inequalities informs the implementation of national recovery and resilience plans and actions, as well as helping to realise full participation in society for all, which will undoubtedly be needed and is crucial to ‘build back fairer’”
said Caroline Costongs, EuroHealthNet Director.