December 2022

IZA DP No. 15822: The Gendered Crisis: Livelihoods and Mental Well-Being in India during COVID-19

published online in: Feminist Economics, 14 April 2023

This paper studies the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the gendered dimensions of employment and mental health among urban informal-sector workers in India. First, we find that men's employment declined by 84 percentage points during pandemic relative to pre-pandemic employment, while their monthly earnings fell by 89 per cent relative to the baseline mean. In contrast, women did not experience any significant impact on employment during pandemic, as reported by their husbands. Second, we document very high levels of pandemic-induced mental stress, with wives reporting greater stress than husbands. Third, this gendered pattern in pandemic-induced mental stress is partly explained by men's employment losses, which affected wives more than husbands. In contrast, women staying employed during the pandemic is associated with worse mental health for them and their (unemployed) husbands. Fourth, pre-existing social networks are associated with higher mental stress for women relative to men, possibly due to the 'home-based' nature of women's networks.