BlueOrchard Brief: Women at the heart of the global Covid-19 pandemic
Amid the global crisis gender-lens investing is crucial for continuing progress in women’s empowerment and enhancing their contribution to society.
Author: Maria Teresa Zappia, Chief Impact Officer and Deputy CEO
The global health and socio-economic crises caused by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic have both exposed the reality of disadvantage faced by women in their daily lives, especially in emerging and frontier markets, as well as the indispensable roles that women play in the functioning of society. Women’s significant representation in the informal economy, asymmetric involvement in care and household work, and low relative incomes and access to financial services relative to men placed them in an already vulnerable position before the onset of the crisis. 70% of female workers in developing countries operate in the informal economy, which precludes access to vital services such as health insurance and unemployment benefits, making women more likely than men to fall into poverty.* Women also take on 75% of unpaid care work globally, significantly lowering their chances of accessing higher-quality, high-wage jobs.**Both aspects also lead to women’s contribution to economic growth and national GDP being heavily underestimated.
The pandemic is likely to widen the gender gap, threatening the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 (gender equality and women empowerment) by 2030. Not only do women lack access to vital healthcare services in times of need, they are also most penalized by job losses as a result of the business disruptions caused by the widespread enforcement of social distancing measures, local lockdowns, trade, and border restrictions, and broader economic recessions.***This is largely because a greater share of women work in sectors hit the hardest by such measures, such as trade, tourism, and service provision, and often work on a temporary basis. In addition, women often lack access to the digital technologies required for remote work.****As a result, female jobs are 19% more at risk than those of their male counterparts.***** Women’s contribution to the workforce has also been impacted by changes such as online schooling and work from home, where women have taken a big part of the toll.******
On the other hand, women have been widely recognized as playing an indispensable role in the global COVID-19 pandemic response; notably, the vital health and social care sectors are largely made up of female workers.*******The pandemic has put women’s contribution to the formal and informal economy in the spotlight. However, without targeted action to promote women’s empowerment during the response to the global pandemic, we risk reversing crucial progress made towards this goal in previous decades.********Effective gender-lens investing is essential for supporting the women who act as the backbone of a society in line with the SDG 5 targets. Financial inclusion can be one of the contributing elements to trigger the needed change even in COVID times.
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*United Nations, Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women, Published April 9, 2020, p. 4, https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2020/policy-brief-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-women-en.pdf?la=en&vs=1406.
**Anu Madgavkar et al., “COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects.” McKinsey Global Institute, Published July 15, 2020, https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/covid-19-and-gender-equality-countering-the-regressive-effects.
***WTO, “Information Note: The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Women in Vulnerable Sectors and Economies.” World Trade Organisation, Published August 3, 2020, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news20_e/info_note_covid_05aug20_e.pdf.
**** Ibid., p. 1.
******Ibid., p. 4
*******WTO, 2020, p. 2-3
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