The unaccounted costs of Covid-19

Source: The unaccounted costs of Covid-19 | Sunday Mail (Business)

Enacy Mapakame

The fallout of the coronavirus has affected individuals and companies differently.

While some firms are recording losses, others are seeing an opportunity for growth.

However, beyond analysing profit and loss positions, few have been counting the emotional impact of the pandemic on ordinary people’s lives.

Unfortunate workers have been furloughed, while others are working from home.

Everyone has been affected nonetheless.

For Saniso Gondo, a 38-year-old professional, the pandemic has been a double-edged sword.

The company she works for was deemed an essential service provider so she had to juggle through her work, household chores back home and another load in the form of school work for her daughter, who she has been home-schooling.

This, she says, has been hectic.

“This is overwhelming and has affected me emotionally and physically. I spend my day at work and when I get home, the first thing I do is ask my daughter to bring her school work; this is no ordinary homework, but I am actually working as a teacher as well.

“There is basically no time to rest; if only we got paid for the extra work,” she said.

In addition, whenever she works from home, she has to compete with her daughter for the same gadgets — smartphone and laptop — which is inconveniently disruptive.

Part of the home-schooling programme includes French lessons, which she does not understand; therefore, she usually resorts to using Google for translations.

This means extra data costs.

Saniso’s case is not unique to her alone, but is shared by many people around the country and the region.

Studies have shown that during times of economic turmoil, war or disease outbreaks and poor social service deliveries, women and girls shoulder an extra burden in the form of unpaid labour.

According to the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA), when there are cases of poor service delivery in health, water and sanitation, there is an upsurge in unpaid labour, which is mainly shouldered by women and girls. A recent study by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) shows that women and girls are at the receiving end during times of crises.

Researcher and author Dr Sandra Bhatasara said when “spending on health, schooling and social care services” is reduced “care responsibilities such as taking care of the sick, the elderly and home-schooling of children predominantly fall on women”.

Human resources consultant Jeniffer Chiwutsi said women are now swamped with responsibilities as they have to take care of the sick, perform at the workplace and stand in for teachers by teaching their own children at home.

This, she said, was taxing and also needed attention from a mental health perspective.

“There really is a gap in terms of mental health stabilisation, and there is need for assistance to help women adjust to the unexpected pressures of their current roles brought by Covid-19 and (the) lockdown.

“Productivity is not only going to be affected negatively by women having to contend with extra chores but also by the uncertainty the whole environment brings.

“Because there are now more pressures, including being teachers at home, there is limited rest mentally and physically for women employees.

“They have to be good and productive employees, be good wives, good mothers and now good teachers, and the juggling takes a toll on them,” she said.

While the economy was already facing headwinds before the outbreak of Covid-19, she added, the pandemic worsened the situation by further widening gender inequalities.

Women have been a key part of the informal sector as cross-border traders and entrepreneurs in sectors such as agriculture.

But restrictions on movement across borders have dealt a body blow to their operations.

Overall, this has the potential to negatively affect production.