Care work during COVID-19: Impacts on women’s wellbeing in the Middle East and North Africa

Maia Sieverding, American University of Beirut
Caroline Krafft, St. Catherine University
Irene N. Selwaness, Cairo University
Alexandra Abi Nassif, American University of Beirut

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new attention to the issue of unpaid care work and its health and socioeconomic repercussions for women, who perform the bulk of this labor across societies. Although school closures and lockdowns have occurred around the world, literature on how the pandemic has impacted care work and subsequent effects on mental health has focused exclusively on high-income countries. We use the nationally representative COVID-19 MENA Monitor panel surveys, conducted over four waves from November 2020 - June 2021 in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia, to examine the impact of the pandemic on women’s subjective wellbeing via time spent in care work. Overall, mean subjective wellbeing scores were low for both men and women. Women's self-reported changes in care work time compared to February 2020 were heterogenous across country and household structure. We build our multivariate models step-wise, beginning with sociodemographic correlates of subjective wellbeing before adding labor market changes and then care work measures. Leaving employment was negatively associated with wellbeing. Both women who reported doing more care work relative to February 2020 and those who reported doing less experienced worse mental health. Interactions by marital status and employment status were not significant.

Keywords: COVID-19, Health and morbidity, Panel studies, Cross-country comparative analyses

See extended abstract.

  Presented in Session 105. Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Relations