Ministry investigates COVID-19's affect on women

As part of the Ministry for Women's role as the Government's principal advisor on achieving better outcomes for women and girls, we have been looking at how COVID-19 is affecting women in particular.

  • The impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls.
  • Some groups of women will experience greater impacts than others. Women who fall into multiple groups experiencing existing inequalities may feel the combined effects of factors such as race, age, sexuality, and disability with gender.
  • Wāhine Māori and Pacific women are already impacted by existing inequalities while being more likely to have additional financial and caring responsibilities for extended family members. 
  • Women are often disproportionately affected by downturns in the labour market and that’s likely to be the case again with COVID-19’s economic impacts. New Zealand’s labour force is highly segregated by industry and gender, with women more likely to work in lower-paid jobs and perform unpaid and voluntary roles.
  • Existing inequalities such as the gender pay gap and occupational segregation, as well as issues in non-standard work and unpaid care, mean that women are more susceptible to economic hardship and less resilient against COVID-19’s economic impacts.
  • Women undertake more unpaid labour than men, including care for children and the elderly. This is likely to intensify while New Zealand is on level 4.
  • The risk of gender-based violence, such as family and sexual violence which disproportionately affects women, rises during national emergencies and disasters. Home isolation means women and children are more exposed to their abusers, and are unable to escape to relatively safer spaces like school and work.

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by emergencies and disasters, such as pandemics. This includes greater loss of income, increased family violence, and increased caring responsibilities. Existing inequalities for women and girls and discrimination of other marginalised group is often made worse.

For more detailed information, see our section on Women and COVID-19, including links to some international research.