The Covid-19 pandemic and gendered division of paid work, domestic chores and leisure: evidence from India’s first wave
Examining high frequency national-level panel data from Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) on paid work (employment) and unpaid work (time spent on domestic work), this paper examines the effects of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic on the gender gaps in paid and unpaid work until December 2020, using difference-in-differences (D-I-D) for estimating the before (the pandemic) and after (the pandemic set in) effects, and event study estimates around the strict national lockdown in April 2020. The DID estimates reveal a lowering of the gender gap in employment probabilities which occurs due to the lower probability of male employment, rather than an increase in female employment. The first month of the national lockdown, April 2020, saw a large contraction in employment for both men and women, where more men lost jobs in absolute terms. Between April and August 2020 male employment recovered steadily as the economy unlocked. The event study estimates show that in August 2020, for women, the likelihood of being employed was 9% points lower than that for men, compared to April 2019, conditional on previous employment. However, by December 2020, gender gaps in employment were at the December 2019 levels. The burden of domestic chores worsened for women under the pandemic. Men spent more time on housework in April 2020 relative to December 2019, but by December 2020, the average male hours had declined to below the pre-pandemic levels, whereas women’s average hours increased sharply. Time spent with friends fell sharply between December 2019 and April 2020, with a larger decline in the case of women. The hours spent with friends recovered in August 2020, to again decline by December 2020 to roughly one-third of the pre-pandemic levels. The paper adopts an intersectional lens to examine how these trends vary by social group identity.