Domestic Burdens Amid Covid-19 and Women’s Mental Health in Middle-Income Africa

Valerie Mueller, Karen Grépin, Atonu Rabbani, Anne Ngunjiri, Amy Oyekunle, Clare Wenham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article analyzes two longitudinal datasets (October–December 2020; April 2021) of 1,000 and 900 women in Kenya and Nigeria, respectively, alongside in-depth qualitative interviews with women at risk of changes to time use, to study two pandemic issues: women’s substitution of paid for unpaid work and how these shifts compromise their mental health. Women devote more time to domestic care (30–38 percent), less time to employment (29–46 percent), and become unemployed (12–17 percent). A rise in domestic work is correlated with depressive (Nigeria) and anxiety symptoms (Kenya and Nigeria). Women with greater agency (Kenya) and fewer children (Nigeria) are less likely to report a domestic burden or loss in paid activities. Social protection programs may fill the void of assistance traditionally provided by informal networks in the short term, while campaigns shifting norms around household work may preserve women’s economic participation in the long term. HIGHLIGHTS Women in Kenya and Nigeria reported increases in domestic labor amid the pandemic. Women’s agency is negatively associated with the domestic burden and a reduction in paid activities in Kenya. Women in households with two or more children face greater domestic burdens and losses in paid activities in Nigeria. Increases in domestic work render women more likely to be anxious (Kenya and Nigeria) and depressed (Nigeria).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-218
Number of pages27
JournalFeminist Economics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • Agency
  • Kenya
  • Nigeria
  • domestic work
  • mental health
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics


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