A Burden on Women
With the closings, families are having to rethink how they support themselves and split household responsibilities. The burden has fallen particularly hard on women, who across the world are still largely responsible for child care.
Babysitters are in short supply or leery of taking children from hard-hit regions.
Lee Seong-yeon, a health information manager at a hospital in Seoul, South Korea, has an 11-year-old son who has been out of school since the government suspended schools nationwide, starting on Monday of this week. South Korea has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases outside China.
Working from home was never an option for Ms. Lee: As the coronavirus has slammed the country, she and her husband, also a hospital employee, have had more work duties than ever.
So Ms. Lee’s son spends each weekday alone, eating lunchboxes of sausage and kimchi fried rice that Ms. Lee prepares ahead of time.
“I think I would have quit my job if my son were younger, because I wouldn’t have been able to leave him alone at home,” Ms. Lee said.
Still, she feels that her career will suffer anyway. “I try to get off work at 6 p.m. sharp, even when others at the office are still at their desks, and I run home to my son and make him dinner,” she said. “So I know there is no way I am ever going to be acknowledged for my career at work.”
For mothers with few safety nets, the options are even more limited.
In Athens, Greece, Anastasia Moschos said she had been lucky. After her 6-year-old son’s school was closed for a week for disinfection, Ms. Moschos, 47, an insurance broker, was able to leave her son with her father, who was visiting, while she went to work. But if the schools stay closed for longer, she may have to scramble to find help.