Women are also overrepresented in many of the industries hardest hit by COVID-19, such as food service, retail and entertainment. Projections from the International Labour Organisation suggest the equivalent of 140 million full-time jobs may be lost due to the pandemic; and women’s employment is 19 per cent more at risk than men.
Straitjacketed policies can be a disservice
Policymakers the world over are engaged in supporting economies, be it via an ultra-low interest rate environment (even negative rates, in some cases) or by doling out assistance for the most impacted. This is somewhat reminiscent of the policymaking after the 2008 recession. But little thought, then or now, has been given to viewing the problem through the lens of gender.
The focus of the massive stimulus was on indicators such as inflation, labour market strength and economic growth – ignoring the key public policy concern of gender equity.
It is easy to underestimate the gravity of the current crisis as economic indicators would have us believe growth is fast catching up (even surpassing the pre-pandemic level) and recovery in the labour market is outpacing even the most optimistic estimates. But this masks the disparity of growth. The progress on convergence of gender divergence is painfully slow and COVID-19 threatens to reverse hard-won gains on gender equality.
An inclusive recovery
That being said, there are some steps being taken. The UN’s Global Gender Response tracker is one such initiative that aims to monitor the policy responses and highlight the ones that have an integrated gender lens. Some 80 per cent of the 206 countries or territories tracked had at least one gender sensitive measure in place. It needs to be caveated the measures were concentrated in countries with high income status, while fragile and least developed countries were woefully behind.