Women in poverty are one of the groups heavily and negatively affected by the current COVID-19 crisis regarding their economic situation, their wellbeing, their safety, but also regarding their housing and education circumstances. While in “normal” times they also suffer from substantial inequalities, the COVID-19 crisis aggravates these inequalities and acts like a magnifying glass, placing a spotlight on their specific challenges.
Women in poverty suffer from intersectional discrimination, due to their gender and due to their socio-economic status. But the inequalities and discrimination they suffer is often three-dimensional, as it is also linked to other criteria such as their race, their age or their disability, Therefore, women in poverty are not a homogenous group but include women from different marginalised and vulnerable groups such as Roma women, Muslim women, Black women, Asian women, migrant women, trans women, older women, women with disabilities, single mothers, etc…
In most countries, women were a majority at the frontline sectors (supermarket cashiers, teachers and health workers, care workers, etc.) facing stress and anxiety related to COVID-19 potential exposure, lack of prevention measures and uncertainties, besides their generally very precarious working conditions in these sectors. Self-isolation policies failed to consider the unstable situations of victims of domestic violence, the impact of suspending in-person services for people living with disabilities, the effects of school closures on gender dynamics, or particularly on single-parent households. The unequal access for women in poverty to technology and the internet heightened the risk of isolation – especially during the lockdown in many countries – and reduced their chances to make their voices heard. All this can lead to more stress, anxiety, lower levels of life satisfaction and less free time for women in poverty.
In order to better understand the existing vulnerabilities and new risks implied by the COVID-19 crisis for women in poverty, a taskforce from the Working Group on Gender Equality developed a discussion paper showcasing the experiences of vulnerable women. The resulting paper ‘Women in Poverty: Breaking the Cycle’ , shows concrete real-life examples concerning risks of discrimination as well as social exclusion and brings in “voices from the field” of organizations working directly with victims of gender discrimination and gender-based violence and abuse, many of whom are affected by poverty and social exclusion. The paper seeks to reflect the diversity of lived experiences from women in poverty. It also raises questions concerning necessary measures and sustainable solutions to improve the situation of all women in poverty in Europe and flag areas of attention, rather than provide solutions and give recommendations.
In addition, the paper fed into the roundtable “Women in Poverty: Breaking the Cycle” co-organised by Equinet – the European Network of Equality Bodies and the Spanish Institute for Women and Equal Opportunities on 22 October 2020.
Read the introduction chapter to get an overview of the areas where the Covid-19 crisis is the most noticable for women in poverty, namely in the labour market, access to health and social services, housing, and access to education.
Read the chapter on the labour market to learn how gender segregation, a lack of education and care services, an unequal work-life balance, and employment gaps keep women in poverty from achieving economic equality with men.
Read the chapter on access to health and social services to understand the effects of poverty on women’s health and wellbeing and how these are aggravated by the current Covid-19 crisis.
Read the chapter on housing to learn more about women in poverty facing a disproportionately high risk of homelessness.
Read the chapter on access to education to gain an insight into the obstacles that vulnerable groups of women encounter in obtaining proper education and what additional obstacles they face under the current Covid-19 crisis
Read up on recommendations to EU and national policy makers, as well as general recommendations, including for Equality Bodies, how to break the cycle of poverty.