Covid-19 and women's triple burden: Vignettes from Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Vietnam and Australia

Helen McLaren, Karen Rosalind Wong, Kieu Nga Nguyen, M. K. Nadeeka Damayanthi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Citations (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)


During disease outbreaks, women endure additional burdens associated with paid and unpaid work, often without consideration or the alleviation of other life responsibilities. This paper draws on the concept of the triple burden in theorizing the gender divisions in productive and reproductive work and community activities in the context of disaster. Events that include famine, war, natural disaster or disease outbreak are all well documented as increasing women's vulnerability to a worsening of gendered burdens. In the case of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, this is no different. Focussing on Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Vietnam and Australia, the four vignettes in this paper serve to highlight the intersections between Covid-19 and gendered burdens, particularly in frontline work, unpaid care work and community activities. While pre-disaster gender burdens are well established as strong, our analysis during the early months of the pandemic indicates that women's burdens are escalating. We estimate that women will endure a worsening of their burdens until the pandemic is well under control, and for a long time after. Public policy and health efforts have not sufficiently acknowledged the issues concerned with the associations between gender and disease outbreaks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number87
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2020


  • Australia
  • Coronavirus
  • Covid-19
  • Disease outbreak
  • Gender
  • Malaysia
  • Productive work
  • Reproductive work
  • Sri Lanka
  • Triple burden
  • Triple roles
  • Vietnam
  • Women


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