According to an IESF study presented at the 4th International Symposium, women suffered more stress and sleep disorders than men in the first wave of the pandemic

Women suffered more stress and experienced greater difficulty sleeping than men during the first wave of the pandemic, according to a study by the Institute for Advanced Family Studies (IESF)

The “IV International Symposium: Care and negligence in the family environment. and Educational and psychosocial challenges and proposals under uncertain circumstances” was held last Friday 20 November. It was organised by the UIC Barcelona IESF and the Childcare and Family Policies Chair (Joaquim Molins Figueras Foundation) to mark World Children's Day.

Several experts took part in the session, including Marc Grau, lecturer at the UIC Barcelona Faculty of Education and coordinator of the IESF Childcare and Family Policies Chair (Molins Foundation). He presented the results of a comparative study on childcare policies in Italy and Spain.

Grau explained that “there are still a number of obstacles preventing full compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, among which he cited “a lack of knowledge, a lack of long-term political implication, high levels of child poverty and a lack of interdepartmental and interinstitutional coordination”.

For her part, the director of the IESF Observatory on Family Policies, Dr Consuelo León, explained that in general, women feel that their health "was affected by the demands of their job during confinement" and that their lives “were stressful”.

The study, carried out jointly with the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan and the University of Valencia, also states that both men and women had difficulty “setting limits between family and work”, but for women, the perception of a “double burden” has been even more evident. "In many cases, according to León, women believe "that work made it difficult for them to fulfil their household responsibilities, especially with young children".

In general, respondents with young children say they shared domestic chores with their partner to a greater extent than in households with older children, according to the study.

In view of these results, León insisted that the pandemic has highlighted “gender differences with regard to remote working”, although in the younger generations “the idea of greater co-responsibility within the family has begun to take hold”.

Exhausted Woman's Syndrome on the rise

The director of The Family Watch, María José Olesti, also took part in the event, stating that “over 45% of families say that mothers took on more domestic tasks and took charge of monitoring their children's schooling" during the first wave of the pandemic. According to a report prepared by this same organisation, “remote work has taken up most of the time for 80% of women and the Exhausted Women's Syndrome has risen sharply”.

Olesti pointed out that cases of anxiety, depression and eating disorders have increased and asked authorities to “take this into account during this second wave”.

Another aspect highlighted by the report is the digital gap that exists among the population. In this regard, about 65% of those surveyed said they seek funding from the government so that their children can follow classes online, and more than half believe that online education "is here to stay".

The report also refers to Spain’s economic situation. “About 88% believe that it will get worse and more than half are sure that their personal situation will also deteriorate". According to Olesti, “a new form of poverty has emerged affecting families and children that requires new approaches”.

Regarding European Union funding to help alleviate the effects of the pandemic, The Family Watch study indicates that more than half of those surveyed believe that such funding "should be managed by an independent body, and allocated according to an objective criteria”.

More than 23,000 people supported by Cáritas Diocesana in Barcelona

The symposium ended with a speech by the director of Cáritas Diocesana in Barcelona, Salvador Busquets, who recalled that since the start of the pandemic they have helped more than 23,000 people and that “one in four people have been left without any kind of income” due to COVID-19.

Busquets deplored the fact that spending on family and child protection “has fallen from 60% of the European average in 2009 to 40-50% at present”, while given Spain's level of wealth “we could be at 120 or even 130%”.

The Cáritas director welcomed the great display of solidarity shown during the pandemic, but admitted that this "cannot be maintained forever” and called for “a collective response”. He also referred to the Minimum Vital Income and regretted that 50% of the people Cáritas cares for “do not meet the eligibility criteria”, but said that “faced with a lack of alternative resources, it still provides some kind of support”.