Economic ruin wrought by COVID-19 falls hardest on women


“Yui Koizumi” (a pseudonym) was doing pretty well for herself. A college graduate, she’d landed a job with an advertising firm and was on her way.

In March there came an email from her employer. The company was shutting down temporarily. She needn’t worry. She’d receive some monetary compensation, and once the COVID-19 pandemic abated, they’d be back in business.

Fine, thought Koizumi, 23. She’d take it easy for a while, maybe take a course or two to raise her qualifications, and then make up for lost time.

In May she got another email. There was no end in sight. She was being let go. “My mind went blank,” she tells Spa! (July 21-28). What now? “My first thought was, ‘It’s so easy to fire people by mail.”

The economic ruin wrought by COVID-19 falls hardest on women, Spa! finds. A Cabinet Office survey released in April shows part-time job holders down 970,000 from a year earlier. Seventy percent of the lost jobs were held by women. Also – unlike the Lehman Shock of 2008, to which the current crisis is often compared – the hardest-hit sector is the service industry, staffed mainly by women.

Koizumi lives in Tokyo with her younger sister, whose college tuition she’s been paying. Their mother lives alone in the country. She hasn’t heard the bad news. Her daughters can’t bring themselves to tell her.

Koizumi got busy. She needed income, a job – anything. She sent applications to 100-odd companies. When nothing came of that, she took whatever offered itself. She was a waitress in a maid cafe, a mover for a moving company, an office worker in an office. Grueling work, long hours, low pay.

Now she’s more comfortably situated, working at a “girls’ bar.” The money’s not bad – 1,300 yen an hour plus “drink back” bonuses: 10,000 to 15,000 yen a day. Still, it’s hard. The hours are 6 p.m. to 5 a.m., and, since a mask would impede interaction with customers, she works maskless, afraid all the while of the risk she’s running.

And there’s another fear at the back of her mind. When the epidemic does finally end, will she ever find her way back into the mainstream economy? Habits acquired where she is now may be hard to break, and besides, there will be a lot of “corona-unemployed” flooding the job market. She knows there won’t be room for everyone.

“Ayumi Sekiguchi,” 31, is a hair stylist. She works in a beauty parlor in Aichi Prefecture, operated by a large chain. Her working day begins at 8 a.m. and ends 12 hours later. Most of the time she’s alone in the shop. “I do everything,” she says – hairdressing, office work, cleaning, disinfecting. She gets five days off a month. Her monthly take-home pay is 200,000 yen – or was, before her employer began deducting 10,000 yen a month for undefined “coronavirus expenses.”

She calls her employer a “black company,” but stays because she has nowhere to go. “It’s better than being unemployed,” she says. A “working poor” underclass was growing in Japan long before the epidemic, but now there’s an added edge – the fear that just doing your job involves risking your life. A Kyoto hairdresser died of the virus, Sekiguchi heard. She could be next. Moreover, her life isn’t healthy. Her house is dirty and she’s not eating right. Her job leaves her no energy to attend to such things. Feeling unwell, she took five days’ sick leave. The lost pay left her barely making ends meet that month.

Consider another set of coronavirus victims, says Spa! – homeless girls. There are more of them lately, it hears from Jun Tachibana of the NPO Bond Project, which extends aid and counseling to them. With people staying home more, there’s more domestic violence. It’s not the only thing that drives girls to leave home, but it’s a major cause. The net cafes or pubs where they might find refuge or work are mostly closed, leaving them vulnerable to all sorts of predators – molesters, pimps, extortionists and so on. It’s a long list. And it’s looking like a long epidemic, likely to get worse before it gets better.

© Japan Today

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This pandemic has been a disaster for everyone but the ultra rich and a few of us lucky enough to have decent, just decent jobs, that allow us to work without suffering the consequences too much.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Never before have we ever shut down economies for a virus.

Never again.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Either we get destroyed by the virus or get destroyed by being too poor to eat or worse a war. Countries should just let the virus happen, it can not be stopped or prevented anymore. Let evolution just happen and wipe out the weak (to include myself if my body cant get over the virus) humanity will continue on, it did after the black plague it will do so again. These ridiculous prevention measures will just push desperate economies to war.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I’m not sure men are faring much better. It seems that the basic job for an unemployed male is waving an orange wand in the blazing heat for about 10 bucks an hour. And then drinking a large bit of that away at night to forget the terrible situation.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

So are we supposed to feel sorry for the sex workers now?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

So are we supposed to feel sorry for the sex workers now?

Yes they need your support. You know what to do.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

“the hardest-hit sector is the service industry, staffed mainly by women”

where is your well researched evidence of this?

my local restaurants and bars are staffed by more males than females.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

 a mover for a moving company, an office worker in an office. Grueling work, long hours, low pay.

So, she complains about being out of work, but refuses to do essential work usually done by blue collars.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Never before have we ever shut down economies for a virus.

Once again Serrano is making statements that clearly show he didn't know what he was talking about, nor bother to fact check himself.

Never again.

Hopefully not. But very possibly if not likely. Our only hope is that between now and the next world-stopping pandemic (hopefully not for another 100 years), humanity will decode biology enough that we will be able to take care of viruses quickly, rather than over a period of years.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I’m not sure men are faring much better.

They are. As a group, women always take a harder hit at these times.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

So are we supposed to feel sorry for the sex workers now?

Yes, of course. Why wouldn't you?

I felt bad for a lot of them pre-covid even. For many, their body is the only asset they have in life. That's a tough place to be in.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There is something cruelly voyeuristic, especially with the celebrity comments and reaction windows in the corners of the screen, with programs like "Bombi-girl" and "Can you take me to your House". COVID-19 is hyper-accelerating the progression of something that has been inevitable for a while. There are resources enough for a post-scarcity existence. No one, especially in developed nations and ASAP the entire world, should have this desperate struggle for basic food and shelter and medical care. That is if 8 men did not control half of the world's wealth.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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