Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a widely held perception that the Covid-19 virus is more dangerous for men than women.
However, new peer reviewed research published by the Centre for Economic Policy Research has found that the difference in numbers of Covid-19 deaths between men and women across the world is closely related to the split of men and women in the workforce.
For instance, in Portugal, 50% of Covid-19 deaths were women, and 45% of the country’s workforce is female. In Mexico, where less than 30% of the workforce is female, 35% of Covid-19 deaths were women.
The research also finds that countries with a higher percentage of women in the workforce have more female medical professionals, which in turn correlates with a greater frequency of serious complications among cases of Covid-19 in females.
Author Renée B Adams, Professor of Finance at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, used data from the GlobalHealth 50/50 COVID-19 sex-disaggregated data tracker along with employment data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Labor Organization.
Adams also uncovered a stark difference in the number of female deaths between US states, with the % of female deaths due to Covid-19 ranging from 39% in North Carolina to 55.6% in Alaska. ‘Since the argument that biological sex differences vary considerably across countries and US States is presumably indefensible, this variation challenges the idea that the only reason women fare better than men in the coronavirus crisis is because of innate biological or behavioural differences,’ writes Adams, who believes this variation is more likely due to differences in working patterns.
The results demonstrate that the more equal societies are, the more gender equal treatment and policies to combat Covid19 should be. ‘At the same time, it should be recognised that although women may suffer less from Covid-19 in more gender unequal countries, they experience worse quality of lives than men along other dimensions,’ states Adams. ‘Thus, lower mortality rates for women in these countries should not be used as an excuse to discriminate further.’