The lived experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic are starkly divided along gender lines, and the pandemic has already exacerbated gender inequalities within the home and in the labour market across countries.
Building on our previous work to understand gender gaps in democratic accountability in Pakistan, which centres on the role of household inequality, we are conducting research to understand the gendered nature of lived experiences and impacts of the pandemic in one of Pakistan’s major metropolitan cities: Lahore. We hope the findings can inform a gender-sensitive policy response by highlighting areas where women are facing particular disadvantages or vulnerabilities, and where there is heightened risk of stalled or reversed progress.
The research is being led by researchers from the Institute of Development Studies and IDEAS, under the auspices of the Action for Empowerment and Accountability programme. It is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
Like many other countries, Pakistan saw a surge of Covid-19 cases and deaths during summer 2020. After a somewhat puzzling period of respite, it has been experiencing a deadly second wave since November. The burden of the pandemic has been concentrated in urban areas, with five major metropolitan areas (Rawalpindi, Islamabad Capital Territory, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi) accounting for a large share of the spread. With especially high pre-existing levels of gender inequality, the need for a gender-sensitive crisis response is all the more crucial to ensure that limited recent progress for women in various spheres is not reversed.
What we know already about the gendered impacts of Covid-19 in Pakistan
Existing research efforts show that:
- Gender-disaggregated data on Covid-19 published by the Pakistan government showed that men constituted 74 per cent of cases in June 2020. Siddiqi and Shahid outline why this may represent a skew in testing.
- In a joint study conducted by the Centre for Economic Research in Pakistan and Centre for Global Development surveying low-income households in Pakistan with children enrolled in Citizen Foundation schools, Akmal et al report that girls and boys were equally likely to spend time studying at home. However girls were more likely than boys to be engaged in household chores, and less likely to be playing than boys.
- Phone surveys conducted by UNWomen in various countries in the Asia Pacific region reveal that women in Bangladesh and Pakistan are less likely to receive important information related to Covid-19, and women’s time spent on unpaid domestic and care work has increased in all countries (however a majority of women report that their spouses are helping them with housework more than before).
- In a study of microfinance clients in Pakistan, Malik et al find that female-run businesses were more likely to experience a 100 per cent decrease in business revenue than those run by men.
- Analysing calls received from across Pakistan to a 24-hour legal hotline at the Sindh Legal Advisory Call Center, Aamir and Randhawa find an initial decrease in the reporting of sexual and gender-based violence issues after the imposition of the lockdown, and a marked increase in the proportion of such calls following a mass media campaign conducted by the Legal Aid Society.
- Analysing data released by the Punjab Safe City Authority and Punjab Unified Communication and Response, Warraich documents ‘a 25 percent rise in domestic violence reports during lockdown across the province’.
About our research
To build on existing knowledge and further our understanding of the gendered impacts and experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic in urban Pakistan, the Action for Empowerment and Accountability programme, together with its partner institution IDEAS, conducted a phone-based survey with households in Lahore during September and October 2020.
Surveys were conducted in two rounds: Round one from 28 August – 14 September 2020 and Round two from 25 September to 9 October 2020.
The sample for the survey was drawn from a previous project on women’s political participation that included in-person surveys conducted in 2018 with a sample of 2500 households randomly sampled from across 500 wards in Lahore. As part of these surveys, respondents were invited to provide cell numbers for future follow-up. Of the 2500 households included in the 2018 study, we had contact numbers for 2380. As we collected cell numbers in our baseline survey, we restricted our sample to the 1830 households where we were able to survey the same respondent in both baseline and endline waves in 2018. In this study we were able to reach 1457 of these 1830 households to interview both a male and female respondent from the household.
In our development of survey questions we drew upon the following publicly available resources:
- Center for Economic Research and Policy Economic Vulnerability Assessment: a monthly phone survey of a random sample of households in urban Punjab.
- Innovations for Poverty Action RECOVR Questionnaire Repository.
- Evidence-based Measures of Empowerment for Research on Gender Equality Covid-19 resources.
We also consulted the following helpful resources for phone-based data collection strategies:
- J-PAL Best Practices for Conducting Phone-Based Surveys
- World Bank Development Impact Blog on Mobile Phone Surveys for Understanding Covid-19 Impact
- Evidence-based Measures of Empowerment for Research on Gender Equality COVID-19 and Gender Data: Protocol Recommendations for Conducting Phone-Based Surveys
The surveys were conducted by the IDEAS Survey Wing under the supervision of Mohammad Malick and Ahsan Tariq. Shanze Rauf, Muhammad Fateh Farhan and Deepika Padmanabhan provided expert research assistance.
Watch this space
This blog post provides an introduction to a subsequent series of posts which will document the lessons and key findings from this study on the following topics:
- Lessons from phone-based data collection
- Covid-19 exposure, attitudes, and preventative behaviors
- Information and misinformation
- Shocks to income and increased burden of care work
- Access to healthcare
- Restrictions on already limited autonomy
- Decision-making about vaccination
Ali Cheema is an Associate Professor of Economics and Politics at Lahore University of Management Sciences and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives.
Sarah Khan is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Yale University and a Graduate Researcher at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives.
Shandana Khan Mohmand is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and an Associate Fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives.