The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially damaging to the economic well-being of women—worsening gender inequality by crippling women’s employment and earning opportunities while exacerbating household challenges such as violence against women.
Today—Monday, March 8—marks International Women’s Day, this year aptly themed “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” As the agenda takes shape for the Group of Twenty (G20) presidency—which passed to Italy in December 2020 in the midst of the coronavirus crisis—to address the pandemic, climate change, and other transnational challenges, the bloc must take steps to ensure women are central to the more equitable and inclusive recovery that it seeks, the world’s women need, and the global economy demands.
Gender inequality is certainly not a new feature of G20 economies; only around a third or less of women are formally employed in India, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, and low rates of female labor-force participation have long mired economies worldwide. But since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, women’s employment rates have fallen precipitously in many nations, usually at a quicker pace than those of men. In the United States, women suffered 55 percent of job losses in the first few months of COVID-related economic restrictions. By late 2020, some 2.5 million women had lost their jobs or dropped out of the workforce. In Latin America, women were 50 percent more likely than men to lose their jobs as the pandemic took hold—a figure that does not include losses among the large number of women working in the informal economy or performing unpaid work. In Turkey, surveyed women experienced higher levels of job loss than men did after the spread of COVID-19. Across the Middle East and North Africa region, estimates indicate that women will suffer a third of job losses even though they represent only a fifth of the labor force.
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