Woman looking concerned in Burundi

The future of work is sexist. Let's fix that.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated what is being referred to as the 4th Industrial Revolution; lauded by many as a revolutionization and modernization of the workforce with industries moving towards automation and data-mined solutions. However, this latest revolution also runs the risk of leaving women behind and setting back decades of progress and hard-won gains, according to a new CARE report released today titled The Future of Work is Sexist.

“We are currently headed down a path that will set women back by a generation. That is the equivalent of more than 35 years of gender equality gains being lost. This is not the path we want to end up on. But the good news is there is still time to reverse course,” CARE Senior Director of Thought Leadership, Emily Janoch said. “To do this we need to ensure equal pay, reduce unpaid care burdens that disproportionately fall on women, ensure equality in digital literacy so all can access the ‘technological revolution’ and ensure there are more women in leadership roles. These are all achievable goals if prioritized.”

CARE breaks down in the report what led to this backslide:

  • Unpaid care work is skyrocketing. With lockdowns, schools closing, and higher levels of family illnesses, women in low- and middle-income countries took on 270 additional hours of unpaid care in 2020, compared to only 70 hours for men. That not only added burdens for women, but also took them out of the workforce. 
     
  • Gender-Based Violence rose. COVID-19 pushed violence up dramatically. 243 million women experienced violence in 2020, with some countries seeing a 5-fold increase. Lockdowns and increased pressure increased violence at home and at work. CARE’s research showed that violence against women garment workers has doubled since the onset of COVID-19—up to 53%.
     
  • Women’s jobs were hit hardest, recovered least. Women were 1.8 times more likely to be driven out of the workforce. Of women who lost jobs in 2020, 90% of them have left the workforce permanently. While men’s employment has returned to pre-pandemic levels (for now), at least 13 million fewer women (and likely even more) have formal jobs than did in February 2020.
     
  • Women entrepreneurs got pushed out of even the margins. Women-led businesses were more likely to close during the pandemic than male-led businesses. Women’s businesses also lost more income than male-run businesses and got fewer loans to help them recover.
     
  • The digital divide makes it worse. COVID-19 accelerated the digital future of work. 243 million fewer women than men are accessing mobile internet across low- and middle-income countries. In total, nearly a billion women cannot access mobile internet.
  • Leaders are usually men. Women hold only 27% of managerial positions at work, and that trend got worse in the pandemic. In health care—one job category that should be growing in the pandemic—70% of workers are women, but 75% of leaders are men. Women’s political leadership has a 78% disparity between men and women.

The full report with data breakdowns and proposed CARE solutions can be found here.

To schedule interviews or for more information please contact Rachel Kent, CARE Senior Press Officer: Rachel.Kent@care.org