When Sao Paulo city officials put out a call for 4,500 public school cleaning jobs, they were unprepared for the response. More than 90,000 women applied in two days. The initiative was aimed at alleviating skyrocketing unemployment among mothers and helping schools comply with Brazil's new COVID-19 protocols for keeping classrooms hygienic. The response offers a glimpse at how Brazilian women—particularly mothers—have been disproportionally sidelined by the crisis, the AP reports. Worldwide, as schools remain closed, many mothers juggle fewer work hours with homeschooling and household duties. Others put their careers on hold, or were laid off. In Brazil, economists say, the worsening health and economic crises are further delaying the return of women to the workforce. "This job fell from the sky for me," said Marilene Paixão, one of the mothers selected for the cleaning jobs. But a month after Sao Paulo hired the women, the city closed schools again on March 15.
Even before the pandemic, only 53% of Brazilian women were in the labor market, compared to 71% of men. This is partly due to Brazilian women facing worse labor choices or requiring flexible hours to raise their children. Thassy Cruz, a 26-year-old nurse and single mother, lost her job at a prestigious medical facility when it began treating only COVID-19 patients. Her 8-year-old daughter Alice suffers from asthmatic bronchitis, putting her at greater risk if she caught the virus, so Cruz quit rather than work with infected patients. Now Cruz is homeschooling her daughter five days a week and has emptied her savings account. She said she feels hopeless. "Not working goes far beyond not being able to pay your bills," Cruz said. "It's about the difficulty of facing the world without having an activity to go to every day. It’s about feeling useful to yourself, and being part of a society."
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