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South African Women Felt the Brunt of COVID-19 More Than Men


Guateng women relocate in search of new horizon. (Photo: TravelYoung)

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed stark inequalities and fissures in societies around the world. One of these ruptures has been the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women. In South Africa, women have suffered severe economic and social impacts from the lockdown that was imposed to curb the spread of the virus.


The National Income Dynamics Study - Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) investigates the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown conditions. Results from the first wave of the NIDS-CRAM survey show that net job losses between February and April were higher for women than for men. Women accounted for two-thirds of the total net job losses. Women are more likely than men to live in households that reported running out of money for food in April 2020. In addition, more women than men are living with children and spending more hours on childcare since the start of the lockdown.


These impacts are considered to be gender-based – determined by the social and cultural norms and practices that differ between genders. There are also sex-based differences – physiological and biological differences between males and females that, for example, cause different immune responses in the body. These sex-based factors are largely responsible for men’s higher mortality rates globally.


In South Africa’s Gauteng province, data from the Gauteng Department of Health’s Mpilo database (6 March - 27 November 2020, received 1 December) shows that 56% of positive COVID-19 cases are women but only 50% of the population are women. This gender gap is largely occurring for women of working age (from 20 to 65 years of age) and for the very elderly.


Although there are quite a few countries in the developed world with a proportion of female cases above 55%, the key difference is that in those countries the majority of this gender bias is explained by cases among those over 80 years of age.


Women may be testing more than men for a number of reasons: as part of pre and post-natal care they may be having routine tests; also, women who experience symptoms may be better at seeking formal care or testing.


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