Less than two months after the covid-19 pandemic was declared on March 11, 2020, the 54-year-old hospital maid Maria Helena da Silva lost her job. A year later, her support and that of her 20-year-old daughter depend on beakers, a R$700 monthly grant received by the young woman in the internship and donations of food baskets. “When she receives (pay), we buy more affordable meat. It has to be acem, sausage or sausage. And then it alternates between sardines and eggs,” says she, a resident of Heliópolis, one of the largest slums in Latin America.
The loss of salary of R$ 1,300 a month was never recovered. Maria Helena’s difficulty is the particular portrait of a reality of Brazilian families, in a scenario of high unemployment and a social protection network that is still insufficient to cover all the problems.
A study by Insper’s Women and Territory Center seeks to shed light on the effects of the pandemic on women living in the communities. Conducted by researchers Eliana Sousa Silva, Regina Madalozzo and Sergio Roberto Cardoso, the study analyzes interviews with 150 residents of Complexo da Maré, in Rio, and in Heliópolis and Jardim Colombo (which is part of Paraisópolis), in São Paulo.
Although the number of interviews does not allow us to draw statistical conclusions for the rest of the population, the situations found help to measure the size of the crisis and the challenge going forward.
Before the pandemic, women performed functions as maids, hairdressers, teachers and salespeople, positions that were more vulnerable than those occupied by men. Without the possibility of working remotely, the interviewees had reduced working hours or were fired – often before their peers. The loss of income led to the suspension of spending on leisure and food for delivery. Not infrequently, accounts were delayed. The way found was to resort to informal activities, such as sewing and selling masks, or producing food, such as cakes and cupcakes.
One of the authors of the research, professor Regina Madalozzo, says that the work seeks to better qualify the burden on women during the pandemic. According to her, the debate was focused on professionals in the home office, who had to balance work with housework and children, but less on women who left home to work as manicures or maids. The objective was to give voice to the second group.
According to her, many women asked for and received emergency aid, but it is a myth that this has led to an accommodation. “None of them gave up working or looking for a job because of the aid. It is a value that is not enough to support a family”, he says.
For the researcher, the dismissal of women in itself is not a direct gender issue, but an indirect one, because they occupy the most vulnerable positions, generally in the service sector, the most affected by the pandemic. Last year, while 195.3 thousand new formal vacancies were opened for men, 114.2 thousand positions were closed occupied by women, according to data from the General Register of Employed and Unemployed (Caged).
One of the findings of the study was the women’s concern with the contamination by the new coronavirus, and also the perception that they lost their jobs due to the fear of their employers that they would take covid-19 into their homes – and not because they were more vulnerable.
Maria Helena reports the difficulty in getting a job because of the fear of contamination. “It’s difficult because the people are afraid that we’ll go collectively and pass the virus on to them,” he says. Diabetic and hypertensive, she is already vaccinated against covid-19, but she herself harbors the fear of going back to work in areas with a lot of exposure, such as a hospital ward.
The information is from the newspaper The State of São Paulo.
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