The recession shadowing the COVID‑19 pandemic has been frequently labelled a “shecession,” implying disproportionately negative economic effects for women, relative to men. Gender gaps vary across countries, but, on average, cross-national OECD and global estimates indicate that women’s hours worked and women’s employment rates declined at a greater rate than men’s in the early months of the pandemic (Alon et al., 2021[1]; OECD, 2021[2]; Bluedorn et al., 2021[3]). This stands in contrast to what have typically been larger job losses among men in recent recessions (OECD, 2012[4]).

These initial declines were driven by demand- and supply-side shocks on labour. Women disproportionately work in sectors that were hit hardest by the early lockdowns (such as retail and hospitality1). Women are also more likely to work in part-time and irregular jobs, which were more likely to be terminated or furloughed in the early months of COVID‑19 (Bluedorn et al., 2021[3]; Adams-Prassl et al., 2020[5]). Finally, restrictions on labour supply resulting from increased unpaid care responsibilities (e.g. the need to care for children during school closures) were disproportionately borne by women.

After the initial shock, women’s work hours rebounded somewhat in the following quarters and were stabilised throughout the pandemic by women’s continued participation in essential sectors like health care and teaching. Labour force participation and employment rates between the fourth quarters of 2019 and 2020, measured in labour force surveys, show that job losses were spread across men and women, though effects were often larger for women (Figure 1).

Yet many female‑dominated jobs still have not returned in the way that male‑dominated ones have, for example in construction and manufacturing in some countries. And the “pull” factors keeping some women out of the labour market – namely irregular school openings and childcare availability – are still ongoing. Whether (and to what degree) these gender gaps in paid and unpaid work will persist will depend on the nature of the ongoing pandemic and on governments’ responses.

Country-specific studies have helped to illustrate the cause and nature of women’s labour market losses. School and childcare closures were a causal driver of parents’ – and especially women’s – reduced paid work hours. These closures forced parents, and especially women,2 to take on additional unpaid care work in countries as diverse as the United Kingdom (Andrew et al., 2020[6]; Sevilla and Smith, 2020[7]),3 Italy (Del Boca et al., 2020[8]), Spain (Farré et al., 2020[9]), and the United States (Zamarro and Prados, 2021[10]; Alon et al., 2021[1]).

Related to this, women’s work hour reductions in many countries were disproportionately borne by those workers who were unable to stay home and telework (Adams-Prassl et al., 2020[5]; Alon et al., 2021[1]). These were by and large the women who had to choose between continuing to work or caring for their children at home. While the hours worked by women decreased cross-nationally, countries with well-designed care leave systems and/or job retention schemes were often better able to stave off more dramatic drops in women’s work (OECD, 2021[2]; Adams-Prassl et al., 2020[5]).

This research, taken together, suggests that the COVID‑19 “shecession” should more accurately be called a “momcession.” Women’s work losses were driven in large part by the outcomes of mothers, specifically, who often took on additional hours of (unpaid) care of their children during school shutdowns. Yet cross-national comparisons of the effects of the recession on mothers have thus far been limited due to lags in the cross-national availability of detailed labour force microdata by parenthood status.

The OECD Risks that Matter (RTM)4 2020 data help fill a gap in our understanding of these inequalities by combining self-reported employment5 and caregiving microdata, disaggregated by parenthood status, across 25 OECD countries.

RTM 2020 allows a comparison of men versus women’s self-reported employment status between Q4 2019 and Q3 2020,6 disaggregated by parenthood status (see Figure 2). Mothers of children under 12 years old (hereafter “under‑12s”) were the group most likely to move from employment to out of employment relative to women without children, women with children age 12 and older, men without children, men with children age 12 and older, and men with under‑12s.

When comparing women and men with comparable parenthood status, the gender gap in employment was greatest between mothers and fathers of under‑12s. On average across countries, mothers of under‑12s were over 3 percentage points more likely to have left employment than fathers of under‑12s at some point between the first and the third quarter of 2020 (Figure 2). This represents the early months of the pandemic, and the period with the most intensive public lockdowns. In Germany, for example, mothers of under‑12s were about 6 percentage points more likely to have left employment than fathers of under‑12s (Figure 2, indicated by the blue bar), whereas women who are not mothers or are mothers of children 12 and over had little difference in employment outcomes relative to their male counterparts (indicated by the diamond).

Beyond outright job losses, other job disruptions took their toll on families, too. It is not possible to assess with RTM data to what extent women versus men experienced job disruptions such as layoffs or placement on a job retention scheme in 2020, as RTM 2020 asked about job disruption in the household of the respondent, not the respondent individually7. These job disruption results therefore cannot be disaggregated by gender.

But given widespread school closures during the pandemic, it is unsurprising that about half of respondents with children under age 18 experienced some kind of job disruption in the household due to COVID‑19. Gaps emerge in particular when looking at work hour reductions and taking leave from work. Across the sample, about 15.2% of respondents with children under 18 report a member of their household having their work hours reduced or being put on a part-time job scheme, compared to just 12.3% of other respondents, on average (OECD, 2021[11]).

Additionally, many parents took leave from work. 15.6% of respondents with children under 18 had at least one member of the household take paid or unpaid leave from work, compared to just 10.8% of respondents without children. The rate of paid or unpaid leave‑taking from work increases further, to 17%, when looking only at parents with younger children under age 12 (OECD, 2021[11]).

It is worth noting, too, that in the households where no one took leave, someone may have already been available to care for children due to a different type of job disruption. Across countries, on average, 41% of households with children that did not take (paid or unpaid) leave reported some other form of job-related disruption, such as job loss, a temporary lay-off, work hours reduction, and/or placement on a job retention scheme (OECD, 2021[11]).

Aside from labour market factors, one of the biggest drivers of women’s reduced employment, labour force participation and reduced working hours during COVID‑19 is the fact that mothers typically took on more additional unpaid childcare obligations than fathers and non-parents. This is the case in most countries that have been studied so far (Andrew et al., 2020[6]; Del Boca et al., 2020[8]; Farré et al., 2020[9]; Sevilla and Smith, 2020[7]; Zamarro and Prados, 2021[10]; Eurofound, 2020[12]).8

RTM 2020 provides new, cross-national data to assess this link. We find that women report taking on more of the additional unpaid childcare work during COVID‑19 than fathers, and we find that the burden of unpaid work is associated with a decreased probability of being in paid employment by Q3 2020.

In the absence of widespread, cross-nationally harmonised time use statistics during COVID‑19,9 RTM 2020 offers evidence across OECD countries that women took on more unpaid care obligations than men when schools and childcare facilities shut down. Respondents whose children were affected by school or childcare facility closures were asked, “In your household, who took on any additional care work as a result of school or childcare facility closures [during COVID‑19]?”

On average, mothers of children under age 12 were nearly three times as likely as fathers to say that they took on all or the majority of additional unpaid care work related to school and/or childcare facility closures (Figure 3). These gender gaps are fairly consistent across ages of minor children (see Annex Table 1.A.1).

61.5% of mothers of under‑12s report that they took on most or all of that additional unpaid care work, compared to just 22.4% of fathers reporting that they took on most or all of the additional unpaid care work – a gap of 39.1 percentage points. The gender gap is smallest in the Netherlands, but even there, the share of mothers reporting taking on the majority or entirety of additional care work is 15.9 percentage points higher than the rate for fathers.

It is important to note that these results present perceptions of who took on more work. Unlike traditional time use surveys, RTM 2020 does not monitor hours spent on specific paid and unpaid activities.

Yet fathers, too, corroborate that their partner took on more of the additional care work than they did – albeit to a lesser degree. While 22.4% of fathers self-report taking on the majority or entirety of additional unpaid care work, 25.9% of fathers report that their partner took on the majority of entirely of additional unpaid care work.

The most common answer for fathers of under‑12s is that the additional unpaid care work was split evenly between them and their partner: 40.8% of fathers claim this, compared to 20.7% of mothers.

This inequality in unpaid work is negatively associated with women’s employment. When analysed in a linear regression, being a mother and carrying out the majority or the entirety of additional unpaid care work is associated with a significant 0.053 percentage point increase in the probability of transitioning from employed status in Q4 2019 to not employed status in Q3 2020.10 In other words, a high unpaid care work burden is highly correlated with moving out of paid work. Of course, causality likely moves in both directions: the additional available time for a respondent who left employment could drive them to take on more unpaid work, or an added unpaid work burden could result in respondent’s departure from paid employment.

Academic research suggests a shift toward more paternal care. Even if mothers took on more of the additional unpaid care work, researchers and policy makers have suggested that COVID‑19 may mark the start of a change towards more egalitarian norms and behaviour. This convergence notion suggests that by getting to know and appreciate the effort that goes into family care work at home, fathers might permanently increase their share of such work (Boll, Müller and Schüller, 2021[13]).

However, this shift towards more paternal caregiving seems to be more pronounced when fathers are unemployed or furloughed rather than working from home, suggesting that the shift emerged out of a supply-side shock (fathers have more time), rather than the demand-side shock (higher need for childcare and housework) (Sevilla and Smith, 2020[7]). Fathers’ childcare provision is much more sensitive to employment status than that of women’s (Sevilla and Smith, 2020[7]; Zamarro and Prados, 2021[10]).

Importantly, fathers’ involvement in childcare seems to be highly sensitive to their partners’ working arrangements. The main driver of the shift toward more paternal care was the inability of working mothers to telework (Boll, Müller and Schüller, 2021[13]), further suggesting that fathers’ involvement came out of necessity (mothers cannot) rather than opportunity (fathers can) ( (Boll, Müller and Schüller, 2021[13]; Margaria, 2021[14]). Women working from home in the United Kingdom, for example, were found during COVID‑19 to have been doing as many additional hours of childcare as men on furlough (Sevilla and Smith, 2020[7]), and a study of time use data in the United States finds that moms working from home spend over 20 minutes more per day on childcare than telecommuting dads (Lyttelton, Zang and Musick, 2021[15]). This gap is even larger when looking at non-care housework (ibid.).

RTM 2020 data corroborate this general consensus that working mothers11 were not immune to the additional unpaid work burden. Working mothers with an employed partner are more than twice as likely as working men with an employed partner to say that they took on the majority or all of the additional unpaid care work (Figure 4). 53.4% of employed mothers, versus 20.9% of employed fathers, report taking on the majority of entirety of additional care work when schools and childcare facilities closed.

The gender gaps in caregiving are largest, by far, when a mother is not employed and the father is employed. 76.9% of not employed mothers (with employed partners) say that they took on most or all of the additional unpaid care work. When the situation is reversed – the father is not employed while the mother is employed – only 24.5% of fathers self-report taking on most or all of the additional unpaid care work.

This inequality in caregiving during COVID‑19 is unsurprising in light of longstanding gender norms and gender inequalities in unpaid work (Figure 5). Throughout OECD countries, and indeed throughout the world, women have historically spent far more time on unpaid work than men. Public policies will influence whether COVID‑19 deepens or mitigates these inequalities in the longer run.

RTM 2020 supports existing evidence that gender gaps emerged or were heightened in worry and distress during COVID‑19.

Country-specific research has found that mothers’ were disproportionately stressed during the pandemic. Zamarro and Prados (2021[7]) find that at the onset of COVID-19, large gaps emerged or persisted in indicators of psychological distress between mothers of school-aged or younger children and all other comparison groups,12 and that these gaps were still present four months into the pandemic in the United States. Xue and McMunn (2021[14]) find similar results for the United Kingdom and highlight the vulnerability of single mothers. Lyttelton et al. (2021) link emotional distress to women’s teleworking and unpaid work obligations in the United States. They find that mothers who teleworked during the pandemic were more likely to report feeling depressed, anxious, and lonely than telecommuting fathers – but they found no gender gaps in anxiety levels among parents who were commuting to workplaces during the crisis (Lyttelton, Zang and Musick, 2021[15]). In addition, qualitative research in sociology has found that mothers who greatly increased the time they spend caring for children disproportionately reported increased stress, anxiety, and frustration, especially when the shock was associated with (paid) work pressure and disrupted childcare arrangements (McCrory Calarco et al., 2020[16]).

Gender gaps in psychological distress are also found in Eurofound’s April and July 2020 opt-in, online surveys in European Union countries (Eurofound, 2020[12]).13 In the first months of the pandemic, women were more likely than men to report work-life conflict, and mothers of young children were more likely than men to report feeling tense, lonely, and/or depressed.

This gender gap in distress is perhaps unsurprising given that 2020 time use research (however limited) shows that women took on both more of the additional care work and a larger share of less gratifying unpaid work, such as laundry, cleaning, and physical childcare. Men, in contrast, spent more time on repairs and grocery shopping (Farré et al., 2020[9]; Del Boca et al., 2020[8]) – perhaps related to the fact that in some countries, leaving the house during confinement was only allowed for grocery shopping (Farré et al., 2020[9]). These mental health findings are situated in a broader context of women being more worried than men, cross-nationally, about household finances during COVID-19 (OECD, 2021[17]).

In RTM 2020, women are more likely than men to respond “yes” to “[Has] your (or at least one member of your household’s) mental health and well-being been affected by the pandemic and crisis?” Mothers are more likely than fathers to report the presence of mental health issues within the household (Figure 6), though the degree to which they are referring to themselves or to family members cannot be established with these data.

Looking forward to 2022, a majority of parents – 61.3% – are also very worried about accessing good-quality and affordable children or education for their children (Figure 7). The rate is over 80% of parents in Turkey, Mexico, Estonia, Greece and Chile. On average across countries, mothers are slightly more concerned than fathers: 63.8% of mothers of under‑12s, and 58.3% of fathers, say they that are somewhat or very concerned about being able to access good-quality childcare or education (Annex Table 1.A.2). In Spain, the United States, Mexico and Chile fathers are more likely than mothers to say they worry about accessing good-quality childcare or education.

COVID‑19 has had obvious effects on the nature of work-life balance for people who remained employed. Telework seems to have helped protect women, and especially mothers, from completely exiting the labour force, and in many countries the gender gap in the change in paid hours worked was largest among people who had to go to work on-site. Simply put, many mothers were forced to choose between working or caring for their children to a degree that fathers were not.

Yet there were negative consequences for teleworking mothers, as well. Among teleworkers, the gender gaps in employment status change were small, but the productivity of mothers seems to have suffered more (Alon et al., 2021[1]). Research suggests that teleworking mothers were more likely to be interrupted during work hours (Andrew et al., 2020[6]), and mothers who teleworked faced a higher childcare burden than mothers who could not telework and instead had to commute to work (Boll, Müller and Schüller, 2021[13]).

Although stigma against teleworking has diminished during the pandemic (Barrero, Bloom and Davis, 2021[18]), pre‑pandemic research found that flexibility stigma is gendered. Men were more likely to discriminate against workers making use of flexible work arrangements, while women, and especially mothers, were more likely to suffer from such discrimination (Chung, 2018[19]). In pre‑COVID‑19 research, employers had also been found to disadvantage teleworking employees in promotions even if they had higher productivity than workers on-site (Bloom et al., 2013[20]).

Perhaps reflecting this benefit-cost trade‑off – the ability to retain a job, but awareness of care obligations at home – RTM 2020 data show that fathers are slightly more likely to feel that technology like that used for telework will make it more likely for their job and work hours to become compatible with private life. Having said that, both mothers and fathers are optimistic, on average, that technology will improve work-life balance.

The evidence presented in this paper suggests that mothers were disproportionately burdened by the added unpaid care obligations caused by COVID‑19 in 2020. While fathers provided additional unpaid care when schools and childcare facilities closed, mothers did much more. This inequality in unpaid work, in turn, corresponded with mothers’ negative employment outcomes, higher levels of stress, and worries about accessing childcare and school.

These pandemic outcomes reflect longstanding inequalities in unpaid work, women’s weaker labour force attachment, and women’s relatively lower wages, on average, all of which contributed to many women becoming the “default” caregiver when the crisis arose.

Governments must take a gender-sensitive approach and consider inequalities in unpaid work when building their public policy response to the crisis. This policy approach should include greater public investments in good-quality childcare, education, and out-of-school supports; increasing the length of, and mandating take‑up of, paternity leave, which has implications for fathers’ long-term caregiving behaviour; and normalising the use of telework across men and women, so that women are not penalised for using it. Finally, policy makers must embed all of these strategies in a whole‑of-government approach to gender mainstreaming.

Father’s caregiving for children around birth can have important downstream effects on equality in unpaid caregiving as children age. Many countries have been trying to encourage a more equal division of paid and unpaid work across men and women through father-specific parental leave programmes, which incentivise fathers to leave work to care for young children immediately after (or for a longer period) after birth (OECD, 2019[21]). A few countries, such as Portugal and Spain, have begun mandating a period of obligatory paternity leave for fathers after a child’s birth. Indeed, when countries were surveyed on how best to increase men’s unpaid care work at home, the most common answers were changing boys’ and men’s attitudes towards caregiving and ensuring that men do not experience discrimination when they take leave from work to care for dependents (OECD, 2017[22]).

In addition to helping child development and fathers’ well-being, fathers’ participation in parental leave can promote gender equality through different mechanisms. Fathers’ leave‑taking can help change the within-household distribution of unpaid work, as both mothers and fathers are involved in parenting tasks soon after birth – an important period for establishing caregiving habits. Fathers’ leave‑taking may also strengthen women’s labour market participation (both entry and hours) by enabling mothers to return to work earlier and lessening the risk of statistical discrimination against childbearing-age women overall. Quasi‑experimental research in countries as diverse as Canada, Germany, Norway, and Spain finds that the offer of paid paternity or parental leave reserved for fathers does increase take‑up by fathers, and that, after take‑up, fathers-only parental leave produces positive effects on fathers’ downstream hours spent on unpaid work (OECD, 2019[21]). Having said that, more evaluations are needed on “what works;” the offer of father-specific leave, in and of itself, is often not sufficient. Relatively generous leave schemes reserved for fathers in Korea and Japan, for example, have not yet corresponded with widespread increases in fathers’ caregiving.

COVID‑19 obviously presented an unexpected and overwhelming shock to schooling and early childhood education and care (ECEC) systems. In addition to a range of other challenges, countries that faced long-lasting shutdowns of schools also tended to experience larger gender gaps in the distribution of added unpaid care work (Figure 9). Countries are attempting to take lessons from the crisis and modernise educational systems to support children in the new normal,14 but governments should also consider how to encourage gender equality in caregiving for children outside of school.

To some extent the gender gaps during COVID‑19 reflect longstanding weaknesses in countries’ social protection systems and their historical reliance on women as a crucial pillar of the social safety net. The gender gap in COVID‑19 care work tends to be lower in countries that have historically spent more on family policies like childcare, family allowances, maternity and parental leave, and other cash benefits (Figure 10).

Any gender-sensitive attempts to rebuild social protection systems and labour markets after the crisis must seriously invest in strengthening good-quality, widely accessible, and affordable ECEC and out-of-school supports. During the crisis, many countries addressed the challenges caused by childcare closures with paid or unpaid leave for parents and emergency care for essential workers. But in countries where childcare is more often privately provided, such as the United States, many facility shutdowns during COVID‑19 have become permanent, and there is now an even greater shortage of childcare spaces than pre‑COVID‑19 (Queisser, 2021[23]).

High childcare costs and an inadequate supply of ECEC are long-standing structural factors disincentivising parents from entering into paid employment – particularly those with low income potential, and particularly mothers. These women often then commit to a larger share of unpaid work at home. Affordable, accessible and good-quality ECEC is crucial for ensuring equality of opportunity in children’s’ learning outcomes and in parents’ employment outcomes (OECD, 2020[24]). Policymakers must design such measures in a way that boosts parents’ work incentives and ensure that support reaches the parents who need it most (Queisser, 2021[23]).

Parents recognise ECEC and other family supports as a key government intervention (Figure 11). On average across countries, when considering the taxes they might have to pay and the benefits they might receive, 63.9% of parents report that they would like the government to spend more or much more on family supports like parental leave, childcare benefits and services, and child benefits. Mothers are about five percentage points more likely than fathers to identify this as a policy priority.

As discussed earlier, the benefits and costs of teleworking are gendered. While teleworking allowed many women to avoid choosing between earning income or taking care of their children, for this very reason it also disproportionately hampered women’s productivity and increased their stress. Thus, while teleworking is a promising tool to help reconcile paid and unpaid responsibilities, it will not necessarily further co-responsibility for parenting nor increase gender equality in workplaces unless these are conscious goals (Chung et al., 2021[25]). With the expected increase in teleworking post-pandemic, it is important to lay down foundations so as to not simultaneously exacerbate the unequal distribution of unpaid work.

Recent policy recommendations at the EU level call for investing in digital infrastructure, training, and connections for all, with special attention to women, to enable them to fully participate in labour markets and address any form of digital divide; targeted actions and campaigns to reduce and break down stereotypical thinking that may harm women who telework; and embedding any discussion of telework within a broader campaign to improve access to high-quality and affordable care supports throughout the life cycle, to lessen women’s unpaid work obligations at home (European Economic and Social Committee, 2021[26]).

At the firm level, some researchers have argued for mandatory telework days to prevent a “race to the bottom” in terms of office presence post-pandemic (Barrero, Bloom and Davis, 2021[18]). This may act in the same vein as mandatory paternity leave to encourage men to take a more active role in unpaid care work. It could also help limit women’s disadvantage in the ability to spend excess hours at a workplace.

This research topic is gaining momentum now. Researchers must continue to evaluate the gendered effects of telework – and how to combat them – under post-pandemic conditions when children are ostensibly back in school and formal care, and with an eye towards trends in the future of work.

Finally, it is crucial to embed a gender-sensitive approach when designing policies for the recovery from COVID‑19. Beyond targeted policy actions, such as increasing ECEC spending, governments must engage in gender mainstreaming – in other words, embedding a gender lens into all aspects of governance (OECD, 2021[27]). This is crucial in ensuring that policies do not unintentionally hurt women by reinforcing existing gender stereotypes and inequalities. Short-term recommendations include the collection and analysis of gender-disaggregated data to monitor the differential effects of the pandemic on men and women as well as incorporating advice from experts in gender issues. In the long term, governments should aim to build policy that alleviates structural gender inequalities and to build gender-inclusive frameworks and plans – taking into consideration inequalities at home, in the economy, and in society at large.

This report was written by Valerie Frey and Lyydia Alajääskö. It was prepared in the OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs (ELS), under the senior leadership of Stefano Scarpetta (Director of ELS), Mark Pearson (Deputy Director of ELS) and Monika Queisser (Senior Counsellor and Head of Social Policy).

The authors thank Willem Adema, Carlotta Balestra, Chris Clarke, Jonas Fluchtmann, Raphaela Hyee, Maxime Ladaique, Valentina Patrini, Stefano Scarpetta and Monika Queisser for insightful feedback. Liv Gudmundson and Lucy Hulett prepared the brief for publication, and Jayne Maddock and Alastair Wood provided logistical, publication and communications support.


[5] Adams-Prassl, A. et al. (2020), Inequality in the Impact of the Coronavirus Shock: Evidence from Real Time Surveys, Institute of Labor Economics, (accessed on 20 September 2021).

[1] Alon, T. et al. (2021), “From Mancession to Shecession: Women’s Employment in Regular and Pandemic Recessions”, NBER Working Paper.

[6] Andrew, A. et al. (2020), “The Gendered Division of Paid and Domestic Work under Lockdown”, IZA Discussion Paper 13500.

[18] Barrero, J., N. Bloom and S. Davis (2021), “Why Working From Home Will Stick”, Working paper.

[20] Bloom, N. et al. (2013), “Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment | Stanford Graduate School of Business”, No. 3109, (accessed on 11 October 2021).

[3] Bluedorn, J. et al. (2021), Gender and Employment in the COVID-19 Recession: Evidence on “She-cessions”, IMF, (accessed on 20 September 2021).

[13] Boll, C., D. Müller and S. Schüller (2021), “Neither Backlash nor Convergence: Dynamics of Intracouple Childcare Division after the First COVID-19 Lockdown and Subsequent Reopening in Germany”, IZA Discussion Paper,

[19] Chung, H. (2018), “Gender, Flexibility Stigma and the Perceived Negative Consequences of Flexible Working in the UK”, Social Indicators Research 2018 151:2, Vol. 151/2, pp. 521-545,

[25] Chung, H. et al. (2021), “Covid-19, Flexible Working, and Implications for Gender Equality in the United Kingdom”, Gender and Society, Vol. 35/2,

[8] Del Boca, D. et al. (2020), “Women’s and men’s work, housework and childcare, before and during COVID-19”, Review of Economics of the Household, Vol. 18/4,

[12] Eurofound (2020), Living, Working and COVID-19, (accessed on 28 October 2021).

[26] European Economic and Social Committee (2021), Teleworking and gender equality: Conditions so that teleworking does not exacerbate the unequal distribution of unpaid care and domestic work between women and men and for it to be an engine for promoting gender equality | European Economic and Social Committee, (accessed on 15 October 2021).

[9] Farré, L. et al. (2020), “How the COVID-19 Lockdown Affected Gender Inequality in Paid and Unpaid Work in Spain”, IZA Discussion Paper 13434.

[28] Hupkau, C. and B. Petrongolo (2020), “Work, Care and Gender during the COVID-19 Crisis*”, Fiscal Studies, Vol. 41/3, pp. 623-651,

[15] Lyttelton, T., E. Zang and K. Musick (2021), “Telecommuting and Gender Inequalities in Parents’ Paid and Unpaid Work Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic”, Journal of Marriage and Family,

[14] Margaria, A. (2021), Fathers, Childcare and COVID-19,

[16] McCrory Calarco, J. et al. (2020), ““Let’s not pretend it’s fun”: How COVID-19-related school and childcare closures are camaging mothers’ well-being”, OSF Preprints.

[29] OECD (2021), Bringing Household Services Out of the Shadows: Formalising Non-Care Work in and Around the House, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[17] OECD (2021), Main Findings from the 2020 Risks that Matter Survey, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[2] OECD (2021), OECD Employment Outlook 2021: Navigating the COVID-19 Crisis and Recovery, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[11] OECD (2021), “Risks that matter 2020: The long reach of COVID-19”, OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19), OECD Publishing, Paris,

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[21] OECD (2019), Part-time and Partly Equal: Gender and Work in the Netherlands, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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Stefano SCARPETTA (✉

Mark PEARSON ((✉

Monika QUEISSER (✉

Valerie FREY (✉


← 1. On average across OECD countries, women make up about 53% of workers in food and beverage services (e.g. cafés, restaurants and catering); 60% in accommodation services (e.g. hotels); and 62% in the retail sector.

← 2. Fathers generally increased their unpaid care work following the increase in caregiving responsibility related to school closures during the pandemic, but generally women took on more ( (Andrew et al., 2020[6]; Sevilla and Smith, 2020[7]; Del Boca et al., 2020[8]; Farré et al., 2020[9]; OECD, 2021[29]; Zamarro and Prados, 2021[10]; Alon et al., 2021[1]).

← 3. Hupkau and Petrongolo (2020), using longitudinal data in the U.K., find little evidence of a gender gap in working hours or job loss across genders in the United Kingdom at the start of the pandemic. However within households they find that women provided on average a larger share of increased childcare needs (Hupkau and Petrongolo, 2020[28]).

← 4. Details on the survey, including sampling and questionnaires, can be found on the OECD Risks that Matter website and in recent reports :

← 5. RTM is an attitudinal survey that includes background questions on job status, work history and job disruption to help illustrate the employment status of respondents and households. Accurate employment figures are best derived from traditional, regular labour force surveys (LFS) and administrative data like tax records. RTM cannot be directly compared with LFS results for a few reasons. RTM asks a simple, retrospective question on 2019 employment status over a period of several months, from October to December 2019, which does not track with any traditional LFS figures (e.g. a monthly or quarterly unemployment rate). RTM also has a smaller sample (n=1000) per country than traditional LFSs.

← 6. Respondents were asked “Were you employed and in paid work at any point during the last three months of 2019?” [yes/no], and “What is your current employment status now [Q3 2020)? Are you now currently employed?”

← 7. The full list of job disruptions and indicators in RTM 2020 are detailed further in (OECD, 2021[11]).

← 8. While some evidence from Germany suggests that the increase in additional care work was shared equally between men and women, the overall division of work remained largely unchanged and women – in light of longstanding inequalities – were still more likely than men to consider the division of work unfair. In the United Kingdom there is also some mixed evidence on whether additional care work was equally shared (OECD, 2021[29]).

← 9. Official and high-quality time use data are still being collected across countries, and it is difficult, cross-nationally, to provide exact breakdowns of hours spent on care. Only a few OECD countries’ national statistical offices, like those in the United Kingdom and the United States, have published public time use data from 2020. See for example and Cross-nationally, one provider of time use estimates is Eurofound’s “Living, Working and COVID‑19” survey, which has run several waves of survey questions across EU countries since spring 2020. Eurofound asked respondents “Last month, on average, how many hours per week were you involved in [caring for/educating your children or grandchildren?” However there are important caveats in terms of sampling. The Living, Working and COVID‑19 survey should not be compared to the national survey office estimates, as it recruited participants via social media and used “snowball” sampling methods, with varying response rates across European countries ( The survey also of course does not cover the entirety of the OECD.

← 10. This regression includes controls for the provision of additional care, gender, age group, education, type of employment status, income, and country fixed effects. The independent variable of interest is an interaction term between gender (women) and providing the majority of entire or additional unpaid care work.

← 11. Parents in this section include all parents with minor children, i.e. under age 18, as restricting by younger age group and employment status leads to very small subgroups for comparison.

← 12. Mothers fared worse in psychological distress relative to the comparison groups of women without school-age or younger children; men with school-age or younger children; and men without school-age or younger children (Zamarro and Prados, 2021[10]).

← 13. There may be self-selection issues among respondents as the Living, Working and COVID‑19 survey recruited participants via social media and used “snowball” sampling methods, with varying response rates across European countries (

← 14. See, for example, a stocktaking of education policy responses at‑year-into-COVID-19.htm.


This paper is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and the arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of OECD member countries.

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