Covid-19: Equal representation could save 112 million women's jobs

Report shows 740 million women work in the informal economy which bore the greatest brunt of the pandemic

A woman makes face masks at the T-KAY Garments in Rwanda; demand for these items are high due to Covid-19. Most women work in the informal economy, which bore the greatest brunt of the pandemic.

Photo credit: Cyril Ndegeya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Globally, 740 million women work in the informal economy which bore the greatest brunt ofCovid-19.
  • For women working in the informal economy, their income dropped by 60 per cent in the first month of the pandemic according to The Inequality Virus report.
  • As at August 2020, only 54 of 195 countries had introduced new or amended social protection measures targeting women and girls.

Some 112 million women may not lose their incomes if men and women were equally represented in jobs hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is according to Oxfam’s report - The Inequality Virus - released on January 25. Globally, 740 million women work in the informal economy which bore the greatest brunt of the health crisis.

Mitigation measures such as social distancing, lockdowns and dusk to dawn curfews, disproportionately affected service, retail, hospitality and tourism sectors where women are overrepresented.

For women working in the informal economy, their income dropped by 60 per cent in the first month of the pandemic, the report indicates.

Meanwhile, the increase of wealth for the 10 richest billionaires since the crisis began is more than enough to prevent anyone on Earth from falling into poverty induced by outbreak of Covid-19.

Women-tailored social protection

Similar to recent studies on gendered impact of Covid-19, the report highlights governments’ failure to establish women tailored social protection schemes or stimulus packages despite facing more of the unique challenges.

According to the report, as at August 2020, only 54 of 195 countries had introduced new or amended social protection measures targeting women and girls,

Kenya, Egypt, Rwanda, Tunisia, Liberia and Zimbambwe are among the few countries that have adopted gender responsive anti-coronavirus measures.

“It has been estimated that the pandemic will reverse the gains of the last 20 years of global progress made on girls’ education, resulting in turn in increased poverty and inequality,” cites the report.

Unpaid care work

The pandemic is also likely to widen intersecting inequalities as single mothers, women living in poverty, and racialised women have suffered the largest increase in unpaid care work.

Of great concern is the report’s indication that the children who need education the most to climb out of poverty, are unfortunately, the most likely to be left behind. This is as a result of the hit of the pandemic, which has left millions of parents and guardians without jobs or less income.

Further, it estimates a three per cent to 15 per cent decline in future earnings due to school closures, a decline that hits the poorest the most.

Unequal world

In the context of reducing maternal deaths, the progress has reverted backwards as the report indicates an eight per cent to 39 per cent increase in deaths per month in lower middle income countries. 

“The coronavirus pandemic has exposed, fed off and exacerbated existing inequalities of wealth, gender and race…We are at a pivotal point in human history. We cannot return to the brutal, unequal and unsustainable world that the coronavirus found us in,” concludes the report.

“Humanity has incredible talent, huge wealth and infinite imagination. We must put these assets to work to create a more equal and sustainable economy that benefits all.”


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