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The gender dimension of occupational exposure to contagion in Europe


  • Piotr Lewandowski
  • Katarzyna Lipowska
  • Iga Magda


We study the gender dimension of occupational exposure to contagious diseases spread by the respiratory or close-contact route. We show that in Europe, women are more exposed to contagion, as they are more likely than men to work in occupations that require contact with diseases, frequent contact with clients, and high levels of physical proximity at work. Women are also more likely than men to be unable to work from home, which contributes to their increased exposure. Gender is a more important factor in workers’ exposure to contagion than their education or age. This gender difference in exposure can be largely attributed to patterns of sectoral segregation, and to the segregation of women within sectors into occupations that require more interpersonal interactions. While workers in Southern European countries are the most exposed to contagion, the gender differences in exposure are greatest in the Nordic and Continental European countries.

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  • Piotr Lewandowski & Katarzyna Lipowska & Iga Magda, 2020. "The gender dimension of occupational exposure to contagion in Europe," IBS Working Papers 05/2020, Instytut Badan Strukturalnych.
  • Handle: RePEc:ibt:wpaper:wp052020

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pouliakas, Konstantinos & Branka, Jiri, 2020. "EU Jobs at Highest Risk of COVID-19 Social Distancing: Will the Pandemic Exacerbate Labour Market Divide?," IZA Discussion Papers 13281, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Jonathan Morduch & Terry Sicular, 2002. "Rethinking Inequality Decomposition, With Evidence from Rural China," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 93-106, January.
    3. Mary Borrowman & Stephan Klasen, 2020. "Drivers of Gendered Sectoral and Occupational Segregation in Developing Countries," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(2), pages 62-94, April.
    4. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2017. "The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(3), pages 789-865, September.
    5. Lewandowski, Piotr, 2020. "Occupational Exposure to Contagion and the Spread of COVID-19 in Europe," IZA Discussion Papers 13227, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
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    Cited by:

    1. Brandily, Paul & Brébion, Clément & Briole, Simon & Khoury, Laura, 2021. "A poorly understood disease? The impact of COVID-19 on the income gradient in mortality over the course of the pandemic," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 140(C).
    2. Jordy Meekes & Wolter H J Hassink & Guyonne Kalb, 2023. "Essential work and emergency childcare: identifying gender differences in COVID-19 effects on labour demand and supply," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(2), pages 393-417.
    3. Aditya Goenka & Lin Liu & Manh-Hung Nguyen, 2021. "Modeling optimal quarantines with waning immunity," Discussion Papers 21-10, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
    4. Sonia OREFICCE & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2021. "Gender inequality in COVID-19 times: evidence from UK prolific participants," JODE - Journal of Demographic Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 87(2), pages 261-287, June.
    5. Aditya Goenka & Lin Liu & Manh-Hung Nguyen, 2020. "Modeling optimal quarantines under infectious disease related mortality," Working Papers 202025, University of Liverpool, Department of Economics.
    6. Jill Furzer & Boriana Miloucheva, 2020. "The Long Arm of the Clean Air Act: Pollution Abatement and COVID-19 Racial Disparities," Working Papers tecipa-668, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    7. Matthew A Cole & Ceren Ozgen & Eric Strobl, 2020. "Air Pollution Exposure and Covid-19," Discussion Papers 20-13, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
    8. Zuzanna Kowalik & Piotr Lewandowski, 2021. "The gender gap in aversion to COVID-19 exposure: Evidence from professional tennis," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 16(3), pages 1-10, March.
    9. Esposito, Piero & Mendolia, Silvia & Scicchitano, Sergio & Tealdi, Cristina, 2024. "Working from Home and Job Satisfaction: The Role of Gender and Personality Traits," IZA Discussion Papers 16751, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    10. Jacqueline Mosomi & Amy Thornton, 2022. "Physical proximity and occupational employment change by gender during the COVID-19 pandemic," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2022-90, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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    More about this item


    COVID-19; contagion; exposure to disease; gender; occupations; working from home;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations

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