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The Covid-19 Pandemic and Lockdown: First Effects on Gender Gaps in Employment and Domestic Work in India


  • Ashwini Deshpande

    (Department of Economics, Ashoka University)


Based on national-level panel data from Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE)’s Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS) database, this paper investigates the first effects of Covid-19 induced lockdown on employment and hours spent on household work. Identifying roughly over 40,000 individuals surveyed in April 2020 (i.e. during the strict nationwide lockdown) and examining their employment status over the last year, the paper finds that overall employment dropped sharply post-lockdown, with no change in the pre-pandemic time periods. This drop in employment was not gender neutral. Given the large pre-existing gender gaps in employment, in absolute terms, more men lost employment than women. However, conditional on being employed pre-lockdown, women were roughly 20 percentage points less likely to be employed than men who were employed pre-lockdown. India has amongst the most unequal gender division of household work globally. Comparing hours spent on domestic work pre- and post-lockdown, we find that for both men and women, hours spent on domestic work increased during lockdown, with the increase being higher for women than men. The gender gap in average hours spent on domestic work hours increased post-lockdown, but most states showed a decline in the gender gap due to a shift in the male distribution of hours. The male distribution continues to be right-skewed, but the proportions of men doing between 0.5 to 4 hours of housework per day increased post-lockdown.

Suggested Citation

  • Ashwini Deshpande, 2020. "The Covid-19 Pandemic and Lockdown: First Effects on Gender Gaps in Employment and Domestic Work in India," Working Papers 30, Ashoka University, Department of Economics, revised 02 Jun 2020.
  • Handle: RePEc:ash:wpaper:30

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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Get by with a little help from my friends (and shopkeepers): Household borrowing in response to Covid 19
      by x in Ajay Shah's blog on 2020-11-16 04:06:00


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    Cited by:

    1. Arpit Gupta & Anup Malani & Bartek Woda, 2021. "Explaining the Income and Consumption Effects of COVID in India," NBER Working Papers 28935, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Deshpande, Ashwini & Ramachandran, Rajesh, 2020. "Is Covid-19 "The Great Leveler"? The Critical Role of Social Identity in Lockdown-induced Job Losses," GLO Discussion Paper Series 622, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    3. Nurgun Kul Parlak & Ayse Nur Ciftci, 2022. "Pandeminin Kayit Disi Istihdami Dislama Etkisi: Turkiye’de Formel-Enformel Emek Piyasalarindaki Ayrisma," Journal of Social Policy Conferences, Istanbul University, Faculty of Economics, vol. 0(82), pages 93-135, June.
    4. Debraj Ray & S. Subramanian, 2020. "India’s lockdown: an interim report," Indian Economic Review, Springer, vol. 55(1), pages 31-79, November.
    5. De Paz Nieves,Carmen & Gaddis,Isis & Muller,Miriam, 2021. "Gender and COVID-19 : What have we learnt, one year later ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9709, The World Bank.
    6. Ishaan Bansal & Kanika Mahajan, 2021. "COVID-19, Income Shocks and Female Employment," Working Papers 69, Ashoka University, Department of Economics.
    7. Amalia R. Miller & Kamalini Ramdas & Alp Sungu, 2023. "Browsers Don’t Lie? Gender Differences in the Effects of the Indian COVID-19 Lockdown on Digital Activity and Time Use," NBER Working Papers 31919, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Eliason, Marcus, 2021. "The unequal(?) burden of unemployment in Sweden during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic," Working Paper Series 2021:14, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    9. Alison Andrew & Sarah Cattan & Monica Costa Dias & Christine Farquharson & Lucy Kraftman & Sonya Krutikova & Angus Phimister & Almudena Sevilla, 2022. "The gendered division of paid and domestic work under lockdown," Fiscal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 43(4), pages 325-340, December.
    10. Arpit Gupta & Anup Malani & Bartosz Woda, 2021. "Inequality in India Declined During COVID," NBER Working Papers 29597, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Farzana Afridi & Kanika Mahajan & Nikita Sangwan, 2022. "Employment Guaranteed? Social Protection During a Pandemic," Oxford Open Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 1, pages 1-15.
    12. Anirban Chakraborty & Sumit Kumar & L. S. Shashidhara & Anjali Taneja, 2021. "Building Sustainable Societies through Purpose-Driven Universities: A Case Study from Ashoka University (India)," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(13), pages 1-20, July.
    13. Chakraborty, Lekha, 2022. "Covid19 and Unpaid Care Economy: Evidence on Fiscal Policy and Time Allocation in India," Working Papers 22/372, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
    14. Biscaye,Pierre E. & Egger,Dennis Timo & Pape,Utz Johann, 2022. "Balancing Work and Childcare : Evidence from COVID-19 School Closures and Reopenings in Kenya," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9958, The World Bank.
    15. Piotrowski Krzysztof & Krukowska Renata, 2021. "Time Budget of Inhabitants of Large Cities in Poland During the Covid-19 Pandemic," Polish Journal of Sport and Tourism, Sciendo, vol. 28(4), pages 32-39, December.
    16. Indervir Singh & Jagdeep Singh & Ashapurna Baruah, 2020. "Income and Employment Changes Under COVID-19 Lockdown: A Study of Urban Punjab," Millennial Asia, , vol. 11(3), pages 391-412, December.
    17. Chakraborty, Lekha S, 2022. "Covid19 and Fiscal Policy for Unpaid Care Economy," MPRA Paper 111925, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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