We investigate gender disparities in the effect of COVID-19 on the labor market outcomes of skilled Ugandan workers. Leveraging a high-frequency panel dataset, we find that the lockdowns imposed in Uganda reduced employment by 69% for women and by 45% for men, generating a previously nonexistent gender gap of 20 p.p. Eighteen months after the onset of the pandemic, the gap persisted: while men quickly recovered their pre-pandemic career trajectories, 10% of the previously employed women definitively separated from the labor market, and another 35% remained occasionally employed. Additionally, the lockdowns permanently shifted female workers to sectors misaligned with their skill sets, relocated them into agriculture and other unskilled sectors, and widened the gender pay gap. Pre-pandemic sorting of women into economic sectors subject to the strongest restrictions and childcare responsibilities induced by schools’ prolonged closure only explain up to 57% of the employment gap.
Keywords: Female Employment, Gender Gap, COVID-19, Sub-Saharan Africa, Shecession