By Chiara Altafin, Manuela Baiker, Ríon McCall Magan, Francesca Mancarella and Mariana Ferreira
Women’s right to work in Europe has been disproportionately affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This article explores how and to what extent certain European countries have developed labour policy responses reflecting a feminist human rights preparedness during the pandemic’s first two years. The impacts of the policies on women’s right to work in Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Germany are examined under critical policy analysis (CPA) methodology and from a human rights-based approach. Ultimately, it is argued that these states failed to immediately address the disproportionately gendered impacts in the labour market. Across all case studies, the analysis identifies a shortfall in protection for certain categories of women which has challenged the fulfilment of their right to work and left them in a state of ‘she-cession’. As a result, previous structures and tendencies defining the roles of women in society have been reinforced. In light of such unpreparedness, policy recommendations are elaborated upon from a feminist human rights perspective, in which attention is given to: intersectionality; dynamics of social hierarchies and power structures affecting access to rights; equal participation in policy decision-making; availability of data on the impact of states’ ongoing responses; and engagement with relevant stakeholders to monitor and ensure women’s enjoyment of the right to work.