Photo: CARE’s response to COVID-19 in Lebanon. Credit: Paul Assaker/CARE
GENEVA, 30 April, 2020 - The majority of women around the world work in low-paid positions, the informal economy, or in agriculture jobs with few protections. These are the sectors that are being worst hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19, and as the crisis drags on and worsens across the Global South, millions will be left without work, and in poverty.
740 million women work in the informal sector, which has been worst hit by the economic fall out of the coronavirus. Furthermore women are less likely to benefit from recovery and stabilisation measures, as gender and social norms prohibit access to economic opportunities and financial resources.
A new study by CARE International “COVID could condemn women to decades of poverty: Implications of COVID-19 on Women’s Economic Justice and Rights” reveals how the global pandemic is having a real and immediate economic impact on women in the developing world. Here, 45 million women work in the garment industry, and face the loss of their sole income; while nearly 44 million female domestic workers across the world, and the tens of millions of poor rural women reliant on farming, can no longer access fields and livelihoods.
Mareen Buschmann, CARE International UK’s policy specialist on Women's Economic Empowerment, says; “the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic and financial impact are deeply gendered. Women and girls are disproportionately impacted – they bear a higher infection risk given they make up over 70% of the global health workforce, and they face higher rates of insecurity as they tend to work in informal jobs with little legal and social protection, so will be hit first and hardest by an economic downturn.”
CARE’s analysis found that an estimated 90 percent of female entrepreneurs participating in CARE’s projects in Sri Lanka have seen their income decrease in recent weeks; particularly as their supply chains have been critically disrupted. The effects extend beyond economic repercussions, as the report also reveals how female entrepreneurs in Guatemala are also struggling to meet basic needs, such as food and water, for their families.
Despite this, the COVID-19 crisis also offers a unique opportunity. Prioritising women and economic recovery along more equitable lines is not just morally right, it is also economically practical. Women have long been seen as critical agents of post-crisis recovery, and investing in gender equality has the potential to stimulate the economy and reverse losses to global wealth by up to $160 trillion.
Buschmann notes; “The pandemic offers policy makers the unique opportunity to turn crisis into a momentum to reset and build back more just and inclusive societies by driving a new model for equitable growth. Embracing female leadership is key to this”. Buschmann continues “if this chance is missed, the crisis will only reinforce existing inequalities and roll back decades of progress on women’s and girls’ justice and rights. Without a strong focus on gender in the political response, the economic impact of COVID will ruin and cost lives. Recovery needs to prioritise gender equality, providing women with equal opportunities and an equal voice.”
The full report can be found here: https://www.care-international.org/files/files/CARE_Implications_of_COVID-19_on_WEE_300420.pdf
CARE and IRC’s Rapid Gender Analysis for COVID-19 can be found here: https://reliefweb.int/report/world/global-rapid-gender-analysis-covid-19
CARE International’s "Gender implications of COVID-19 outbreaks" policy brief can be found here: https://reliefweb.int/report/world/gender-implications-covid-19-outbreaks-development-and-humanitarian-settings