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 remained jobless and another 35% remained occasionally employed. Additionally, the lockdowns shifted female workers from wage-employment to self-employment, relocated them into agriculture and other unskilled sectors misaligned with their skill sets, 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 65% of the employment gap.
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