The COVID-19 pandemic not only devastated the lives of many across the world but particularly affected the women in many ways. In a recent blog post “The COVID-19 Gender Gap” published on July 21, 2020, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to widen the gender gap. In the post, the IMF has observed that,
“The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to roll back gains in women’s economic opportunities, widening gender gaps that persist despite 30 years of progress.”
In the post, the IMF has identified 4 reasons for the disproportionate effects on the women and their economic status due to the COVID-19. They are as follows:
Newly adopted policies like social distancing and mitigation measures are in place in the social sectors, such as the services industries, retail, tourism and hospitality etc. These are hard hit by COVID-19 to layoff the workers or shut down the business, where women make majority of the employees.
Example: In the USA during April to June, 2020, the unemployment among the women in services sectors was 2 percentage points higher than the men. Also, around 54% women working in this sectors cannot telework due to the nature of their jobs. In Brazil, it is recorded at 67%. In low income countries, only 12% are able to work remotely.
The livelihoods of informal workers and especially the women workers, who work with low payments and no labor law protections in place, constitute a majority of them as workforce in the low-income countries, are greatly affected by the crisis with no benefits of pension or health insurance at all; therefore, increasing the threat of poverty due to the fallout from the economic opportunities.
Example: Women’s poverty in Columbia has increased by 3.3% due to the shutdown in the economic activities. Further, the UN estimates that the number of people living in poverty in Latin America and Caribbean will increase by 15.9 million; therefore, bringing the total number of people to 214 million with many being the women and girls.
Women tend to do more unpaid household work than men (about 2.7 hours per day more). They bear the gender roles of family care responsibilities that have resulted from the lockdowns such as school closures and precautions for vulnerable old aged parents. Even after the shutdown restrictions are lifted, women tend to gain less employment than men.
Example: In May job report, Canada reported that women’s employment has increased by 1.1% compared with 2.4% for men as the child care issues persist for women.
There’s a loss of human capital of women and the girls due to the pandemics. In many developing countries, young girls are forced to drop out from the school to work for the family and thereby supporting household income.
Example: The Malala Fund Report indicates that the share of girls not attending the school nearly tripled in Liberia after the Ebola outbreak, and in Guinea, girls were 25% less likely than boys to enroll in schools. In India, marriages are being arranged before girls complete their education, and thereby, there’s no human capital gain by the women.
Tweet by the IMF on the blog post:
Our latest #IMFBlog shows why #COVID19 widens the gender gap. Women’s livelihoods bear the brunt of containment measures taken to address pandemic. https://t.co/sDllkbym35 #GenderEquality pic.twitter.com/gxePfakw6g
— IMF (@IMFNews) July 21, 2020
In further, elaborating the reasons for the gender gap by the COVID-19, the IMF has argued the policy makers to do some of the policy changes to support the women and to reduce/level the gender gap. The policy changes are as follows:
In the post, the IMF has urged for immediately effective gender-responsive fiscal policies. By investing in education and infrastructure, subsidizing childcare and offering parental leave, and thereby advocating them as the necessary policies “to promote an inclusive post-COVID-19 recovery”, we can move towards levelling the gender gap.