Women in G7 countries feel less supported than men to deal with Covid-19’s impact


(CNN) — An average of more than 60% of women living in G7 countries whose lives were changed by the Covid-19 pandemic say their governments did not provide them with much of the support they needed to deal with those changes, according to a far-reaching new poll by CNN.

These exclusive findings come against the backdrop of numerous reports showing that women have been more adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic than men and resulting pledges to build back better touted by leaders around the world. 

CNN’s survey finds that although both men and women in G7 countries who experienced disruption to their lives caused by the pandemic felt they were largely unsupported by their governments, the sentiment is more pronounced among women.

In none of these seven countries did a majority of these women say they received a good amount or more of the support that they needed.

A lack of government support

Women whose lives were changed by the pandemic were, on average, four percentage points less likely than men who faced changes to say their local government provided at least a good amount of the support they needed, and about seven percentage points less likely to say their national government provided similar levels of support.

Among women who say their lives were changed during the pandemic, an average of 31% say their local government provided at least a good amount of support in dealing with those changes, while this figure was 35% among men. When it comes to support provided by national governments, an average 33% of those women say they received at least a good amount of support, compared with 40% among those men.

The divide is particularly notable in the UK, France, and Italy. In these three countries, the percentage of people who experienced changes and say they received at least a good amount of support from their local government was 26% of women and 38% of men in the UK, 26% of women, and 39% of men in France and 29% of women and 40% of men in Italy.

For the percentage of people who experienced changes and say they received at least a good amount of support from their national government these figures were 30% of women and 45% of men in the UK, 29% of women and 42% of men in France, and 29% of women and 44% of men in Italy.

Of the G7 nations, Canada performed best, with 41% of women who experienced changes saying they felt supported by their local government and 47% by their national government. 

Not only did women not feel supported on average across the seven countries, they were also generally more unhappy than men with their governments’ handling of the pandemic.

Canada again fared better, with around 55% of women rating their government’s handling of the pandemic positively.

However, less than half of women in the other six nations approved, with the rest disapproving or unsure. In most, their impression of their government’s response to Covid-19 was significantly worse than that of men.  

Women are generally more unhappy than men with their governments’ handling of the pandemic

% of women and men who approve their government’s handling of the pandemic

Where women say they’re hurting most

Evidence had already begun to emerge in 2020 and more in 2021 of the disruptions to women’s lives caused by the pandemic.

The International Labour Organization reported that 13 million fewer women would return to the workforce; data collected by UN Women found that in 13 countries across the world the pandemic “increased women’s experiences of violence and eroded their feelings of safety”; and, consistent with life before the pandemic, women were still bearing the burden of care disproportionately to men, spending on average an additional 5.2 hours a week on childcare, compared to 3.5 for men.

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CNN’s findings reveals where exactly women in the G7 say they’re particularly hurting now.

Across the G7, an average of 81% of women say the pandemic caused at least some changes to their lives. Of these women, an average of 71% women said these changes were mostly negative, with 37% attesting that these changes were major.

Virtually all aspects of women’s everyday lives have been disrupted, with the top five areas of disruption being: future planning, community (their relationships with close family and friends), mental health, access to healthcare and their financial stability.

How women in the G7 rank the main areas of disruption to their lives

% of respondents who say the pandemic caused at least a minor disruption to…

Men Women

A study published in the Lancet last week pointed to “intensified levels of pre-existing widespread inequalities” following the pandemic and found that women in most parts of the world were more likely to report employment loss, say they had to forego work to care for others, were more likely to drop out of school than their male counterparts and saw elevated levels of gender-based violence between March 2020 and September 2021.

But in each of the G7 countries, the CNN survey found most women did not feel their gender exacerbated the challenges they faced despite the disruptions wrought by the pandemic – they were, however, more likely to report a gender differential. 

On average 79% of men said that men and women faced the same challenges. This figure was 73% for women. Women were also generally more likely to say that they had the more difficult time during the pandemic (18% of women said that on average vs. 12% of men).

Women in G7 countries more likely than men to notice a gender difference when it comes to the impact of the pandemic

We asked: Do you think the pandemic has been more difficult for women or for men, or has it been equally difficult for both?

More difficult for men
Equally difficult for both
More difficult for women
No opinion

Canada

What men said

What women said

France

What men said

What women said

Germany

What men said

What women said

Italy

What men said

What women said

Japan

What men said

What women said

UK

What men said

What women said

US

What men said

What women said

The CNN poll found women’s personal experiences of the pandemic vary significantly, with demographics such as race and income in part shaping what impact Covid-19 had on their life. In the United States, for instance, women of color were more likely than white women to say the pandemic had affected their financial stability (68% compared to 52%), although they were also more likely to say they had seen positive changes in their lives because of the pandemic (38% to 28%).

Differences from across countries also go some way to explaining why the results of the CNN poll may differ from wider reported trends.

The G7 are some of the world’s richest countries and many of the more significant impacts of the pandemic were ones exacerbated by poverty.

People who lived in countries with poor health infrastructure, weaker education systems, more overcrowded dwellings and the inability to switch to working from home risk greater long-term harm.

As professor of international studies at Brown University, Nadje Al-Ali wrote on Covid-19 and feminism in the Global South: “The pandemic threatens to create long-term gaps in terms of girls’ education as well as women’s participation in formal paid labor, which in turn risks strengthening traditional patriarchal gender norms and the division of labor within the household and the economy.”

Looking to the future

As countries drop Covid-19 restrictions, and efforts are instead diverted to reviving economies, CNN asked women across the G7 what their comfort levels were with living with the coronavirus, and to identify what the biggest problems they still face are. 

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Two years after Covid-19 brought the world to a standstill, half or more women in each of the countries surveyed say that it is time to learn to live with the virus, rather than focus primarily on stopping its spread. Though the degree to which they favor this sentiment does vary.

In France, Germany, and the UK, women are more likely than men to say it’s time to live with the virus; in the US and Japan, women are slightly more likely than men to say stopping Covid should remain the priority. Canada and Italy see less pronounced gender divides on this question. 

Asked to pick the biggest problem currently facing them and their immediate families, inflation and the cost of living tops the list for women in five of the seven countries surveyed: the UK (64%), France (63%), the US (61%), Canada (56%) and Germany (44%).  In Italy, other economic concerns (24%) slightly edge out inflation (21%). Japan is the only country where women rate Covid as their biggest problem (at 34%), with inflation and the cost of living coming in second at 22%.

Fewer than one-tenth of women in any of the countries say their top concerns are related to housing, or to providing care for children or other relatives. 

In six of the G7 nations, where inflation and other economic concerns are at the forefront of women’s minds, a majority of women say their government is not doing enough to address their foremost concerns: 58% in Italy, 62% in Germany, 66% in both France and Canada, 67% in the UK and 77% in the US.

In Japan, where the first concern is Covid-19, fewer than half of women — 47% — say the government is doing too little to help. 

Inflation and the cost of living tops the list of women’s present-day concerns

We asked women: which of the following areas would you say is the biggest problem facing you and your immediate family right now?

Inflation and cost of living Covid-19 Economic and financial issues Health Housing Providing care No opinion

Inflation and cost of living

Covid-19

Economic and financial issues

Health

Housing

Providing care

No opinion

In a recommendations document to the “leaders of the G7”, published in June 2021, the G7’s Gender Equality Advisory Council wrote about “the disproportionate effect of Covid-19 on women and girls globally,” and called for “a pandemic response and recovery that takes account of the needs of women and girls and tracks the effect of recovery initiatives on men and women, taking into account factors such as age, income, disability and ethnicity.”

Yet the results of CNN’s exclusive poll reveals a gap between what the G7 leaders have been saying — about “driving inclusive recovery … in a gender equitable way”, or that “when women are better off, we are better off” – and what women feel about their lives and prospects since the pandemic began. 

Methodology

CNN As Equals’ polls were conducted online among adults in G7 countries. The United States survey was conducted by SSRS between 23 February and 26 February among 1,002 people initially recruited using probability-based methods. Surveys in Canada (1,011 adults), France (1,051 adults), Germany (1,061 adults), Italy (1,063 adults), Japan (1,063 adults) and the United Kingdom (1,095 adults) were conducted online by Savanta ComRes between 25 February and 2 March. Results for the US survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points, results in Canada have an error margin of plus or minus 3.1 points, and it is 3.0 points for results from France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK.



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