Inés Berniell, Leonardo Gasparini, Mariana Marchionni & Mariana Viollaz (2023) – The role of children and work-from-home in gender labor market asymmetries: evidence from the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin America

Asymmetry in childcare responsibilities is one of the main reasons behind gender gaps in the labor market. In that context, the ability to work from home may alleviate the hindrances of women with children to participate in the labor market. We study these issues in Latin America, a region with wide gender gaps, in the framework of a major shock that severely affected employment: the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, we estimate models of job loss exploiting microdata from the World Bank’s High-Frequency Phone Surveys conducted immediately after the onset of the pandemic. We find that the mitigating effect of working from home on the severity of job losses was especially relevant for women with children. The results are consistent with a plausible mechanism: due to the traditional distribution of childcare responsibilities within the household, women with children were more likely to stay home during school closures, and therefore the ability to work from home was crucial for them to keep their jobs.