By John J. Rivera

It is without a doubt that the COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted everyone.

It is also fair to say, though, that not everyone has been impacted equally.  While we all faced our share of challenges, some lost more than others.  Some lost their labors of love and others lost so much more — those they love.  

When we look at Guam’s economy, it is not rocket science to say that tourism was the industry that was hit the hardest.  Businesses and employees that rely on tourism experienced more layoffs, furloughs, and permanent closures than any other industry in 2020.

Other than the obvious, have you ever considered who really was impacted the most?

With the support of Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero, the University of Guam School of Business and Public Administration and the Regional Center for Public Policy, we were able to profile a portrait of those most affected by COVID-19.

Roseann M. Jones, professor of economics at the University of Guam was a lead on this research. She found that in Guam CHamoru women under the age of 40 were the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; more specifically, CHamoru women under 40 with no more than a high school education, making less than $20,000 a year, and living in single family dwellings with seven or more people. 

The data revealed that these women spent a significant time assisting their children in online education.  It also highlighted that food security was an issue.  Moreover, the financial strain caused by the pandemic has forced families to compress.  In some cases, households merged as children move back in with their parents to make ends meet. 

This new research supported earlier reports from Gary Hiles, chief economist at the Guam Department of Labor.  In December 2020, Hiles reported that 18.6% of adult women were unemployed as compared to 16% of adult men.  He also alluded to anecdotally to the fact that women were the ones taking care of their children and sick family members at home during the pandemic. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted similar trends.

Since the pandemic began, women accounted for more than 5.4 million of the jobs lost in the U.S.  In December 2020 alone, all the 156,000 jobs, which represent 100% of all the jobs lost that month, were women’s jobs.  Interestingly, that same month of December 2020, men gained 16,000 jobs.  One of the reasons given for this imbalance was believed to be the nature of jobs women held.  Industries like hospitality, restaurant, retail, and entertainment all rely heavily on women. 

This month March, we celebrated Women’s History Month in the United States.  On March 8 we also celebrated International Woman’s Day.  There has been much done to try to energize the issues of equality, inclusion, diversity and tolerance.  As we celebrate these important events, there is a very sobering reminder that there is still more work to be done.

Our recovery is going to take time.  There is not going to be an easy button on this one.  If you follow the trends, it alludes to the resolve that if we hope to get our economy going again, we need to help our people get back to work.  Attention needs to be focused on pandemic exacerbated realities that prevent the different segments of our community from returning to work. mbj


— John J. Rivera is assistant professor of public administration at the University of Guam. He can be reached at [email protected].