Gender Equality and Economic Recovery – Pandemic

Foreign Policy Gender Structural Inequality

Elevating Gender Equality in COVID-19 Economic Recovery

An evidence synthesis and call for policy action

Foreign Policy Analytics, a research division of Foreign Policy Magazine

“Studies around the world are revealing differential and disproportionate socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women arising from the compounding effects of many complex factors. To contribute to the discourse and influence key decision-making, FP Analytics has synthesized evidence of the devastating gendered effects of the pandemic and current government responses, and provides recommendations for rights-based policies, interventions, and investments underpinned by rigorous gender analysis.”

Executive Summary

“Studies around the world are revealing differential and disproportionate socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women arising from the compounding effects of many complex factors. To contribute to the discourse and influence key decision-making, FP Analytics has synthesized evidence of the devastating gendered effects of the pandemic and current government responses, and provides recommendations for rights-based policies, interventions, and investments underpinned by rigorous gender analysis.

The Socioeconomic Impacts of COVID-19

Women and Work

  • Women are overrepresented in low-paid and low-skilled sectors and occupations, and are more likely to work in the informal sector, bear disproportionate burdens of care work, and have less access to social protections and health entitlements associated with formal employment than men.
  • Both women wage workers and entrepreneurs are disproportionately concentrated in social sectors—including hospitality, retail, food services, and tourism—that are among the hardest hit by the pandemic.
  • Emerging evidence reveals disproportionately high and more permanent job and income losses for women, and slower recovery when compared to men. Women-led enterprises have been more likely to report closures compared to those led by men, and have been disproportionately affected in sales, profits, liquidity, and growth.

The Care Crisis

  • Care work is undervalued and most often unpaid or underpaid. This structural division exploits and subordinates women, particularly those already marginalized in society and more likely to experience poverty.
  • Increases in women’s unpaid care work are due to a severe global contraction of the paid care sector. If the sector cannot rebound, it will continue to drive major job and earnings losses—including for center-based child care workers in formal and informal settings and domestic workers providing care to private households—as well as limit the ability of women with unpaid care responsibilities across all sectors to re-enter the workforce.
  • Migrant domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 because they are often informally employed and beyond the reach of labor laws, health entitlements, and social protection schemes.

Cross-Cutting Issue: Women in the Informal Economy

  • Women wage workers and entrepreneurs in the informal economy have experienced widespread losses, and their recovery is slower compared to men. As a result, many women have depleted their savings, sold assets, and taken on perhaps unsurmountable debt.
  • Women working in the informal sector face specific and heightened experiences of vulnerability arising from the compounding effects of both their gender and the informality of their work. Without labor and social protections and adequate resources, and beyond the reach of legal recourse, women informal workers are at a higher risk of sexual- and gender-based violence and exploitation.

Gender-blind Policy Responses

  • The vast majority of pandemic recovery policies to date—including social protection, labor market, fiscal, and economic measures—have been designed without a gender perspective. This can worsen existing economic, health, and other inequities.
  • As national debts soar, the temptation of austerity measures threatens the welfare of women. More than 80 percent of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans negotiated since March 2020 lock countries into fiscal consolidation measures that could lead to cuts to critical social and health services upon which women rely, particularly those of lower socioeconomic status and in low- and middle-income countries.

Lack of Gender Data

  • Glaring gender data gaps, which have been worsened by the pandemic’s toll on data collection mechanisms globally, are long-standing and partly the result of the perception of gender data as additive, as opposed to fundamental; a lack of gender-intentional, standardized, and comparable measures; and chronic under-investment and lack of prioritization.
  • More and better gender data are needed in a number of areas, including: health care access and usage; women’s participation and leadership; COVID-19-related data; the health and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 on gender bias, discrimination, mistreatment experiences, beliefs, norms, and agency; sexual- and gender-based violence; social protection coverage; unpaid care work; the enabling environment for women entrepreneurs; and women in the informal economy.”

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