The closure of many workplaces and schools during lockdowns increased women’s share of unpaid work, despite men sharing the workload more than before.

Time spent on cooking and housework increased for both women and men, during the lockdown period. During lockdowns, European women dedicated 18.4 hours per week on cooking and housework, compared to 12.1 hours for men [1]. Before the pandemic, women spent 15.8 hours and men 6.8 hours on these tasks.  

With many schools closed across Europe during the lockdowns, a new form of unpaid care emerged. The move to online schooling created yet another unpaid job, especially for women who were more involved in helping their children in the virtual classroom [2].

The situation for lone parents - who are mostly women - is even more difficult. They have to juggle working from home and caring for children alone. If they get sick, their situation gets even more complicated.

At the start of the pandemic, a big share of the EU population shifted to telework. The rates of people working from home were higher in households with children and particularly among lone parents, suggesting that telework is used to balance work and family life, particularly among women.

However, telework is not a solution for childcare. During lockdowns, mothers working from home had to deal with interruptions by children more often than fathers. Constant distractions and extra care responsibilities for women lowers their productivity and could reduce their career progression and pay.


What policymakers need to know

  • Affordable and accessible childcare for parents who work in essential services is one important way to ensure that they can continue to engage in their work
  • Dismantling gender stereotypes and ideas about traditional gender roles could encourage more men to pick up their fair share of unpaid work at home.
  • Financial support for lone parents to assist with childcare, rent payments and other household expenses could help to alleviate some of the financial hardship, especially in light of potential job losses in relation to Covid-19.

For more information

Gender equality and the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (report)

Gender inequalities in care and consequences for the labour market (report)

Gender inequalities in care and pay in the EU (factsheet)

Gender Equality Index 2020 – domain of time

Beijing +25: Women and poverty: women at greater risk (policy brief)

Beijing +25: the fifth review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in the EU Member States (report)

Poverty, gender and lone parents in the EU (factsheet)