Home Argentina community Rethinking care work is crucial for gender inclusive recovery

Rethinking care work is crucial for gender inclusive recovery

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  • Women continue to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
  • They are more vulnerable to negative socio-economic impacts.
  • For an inclusive recovery, we must invest in women and rethink care work.

A year and a half since the start of the pandemic and women continue to be disproportionately affected due to inadequate and gender-sensitive recovery from health and socio-economic crises.

In the labor market, more women than men were unemployed due to the pandemic. While male employment in 2021 is expected to return to 2019 levels, the recovery in female employment is expected to be 0.9% lower from 2019 levels. Moreover, only 43.2% of women in working age worldwide will be employed in 2021, compared to 68.6% of working-age men. Simply put, more and more women are leaving the workforce.

The pandemic has also widened the global gender poverty gap. Poverty rates for women and girls are expected to reach 12.5% ​​in 2021 (11.7% in 2019) against 12.1% for men and boys (11.3% in 2019). By this year, for every 100 men aged 25 to 34 living in extreme poverty, there will be 118 corresponding women.

Why are women more vulnerable to the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic?

To alleviate the widening gender gap, it is relevant to understand the underlying challenges that women face compared to men. These include the burden of care work, unemployment statistics and the disproportionate representation of women in certain economic sectors.

Traditionally, women have borne the brunt of unpaid care and domestic work within families. Even before the pandemic, women already performed three times as much care work as men – or 8.3 billion additional hours of unpaid work. With schools and daycares closed for most of the pandemic, the burden of unpaid child care was once again heavily on the shoulders of women. Last year, women took on 173 extra hours of unpaid childcare, compared to just 59 extra hours for men.

This increase in unpaid care work is a crucial factor in the decline in the participation rate of women, even as employment shows signs of recovery in several countries. However, the actual decline is often much larger than the reported numbers. Unemployment data reports mask the declining number of women in the labor force by definition and construction, in both developed and developing countries.

In the United States, a woman who has completely left the workforce and is not looking for a job is no longer counted in monthly unemployment rates. In Malaysia, a woman is still considered to be employed if she moves from paid work to unpaid family work, provided it is at least one hour per week. Unpaid family work remains loosely defined. Coupled with reporting concepts that overlook the growth of unpaid work for women, enumerating the economic losses suffered by women and countries becomes a daunting task.

The economic impact suffered by women employed in manufacturing, service and social sectors has been exacerbated by the pandemic. In fact, women represent 70% and 75% of the health and care workforce and the clothing supply chain, respectively. Some working-age women are not even included in employment data due to their participation in the informal economy. With 63% of the informal economy workforce made up of women, they are more vulnerable to precarious income and security arrangements, and do not have access to social protection.

Putting women at the center of recovery efforts

For an inclusive recovery, we must invest in women. Governments need to adopt long overdue gender sensitive policies.

We must rethink the work of care. The healthcare economy remains largely invisible and insufficiently resourced. To further narrow the gender gap, targeted budget spending should be devoted to improving care leave and social interventions. Specifically, it is crucial to extend the coverage of care policies for longer and better designed maternity and paternity leave, and for more flexible paid parental leave.

Wider coverage of care policies is crucial for promoting equality in employment.

—Dharrnesha Inbah Rajah.

Currently, only 117 countries legally guarantee at least 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, and only 79 countries legally require paid paternity leave. An additional complexity with the father leaves is the persistent low absorption. To encourage a paradigm shift in attitudes regarding paternal leave, offsets such as tax credits and cash transfers can be used as short-term nudges.

Wider coverage of care policies is crucial for promoting equality in employment. These should pave the way for long-term policy measures such as strengthening anti-discrimination labor laws to reduce gender pay gaps and allow easier re-entry into the labor market for women whose employment is interrupted due to family responsibilities. Basic legal frameworks enabling the economic inclusion of women are not negotiable.

The World Economic Forum has been measuring gender gaps since 2006 in the annual Global Gender Gap Report.

The Global Gender Gap Report tracks progress in reducing the gender gap at the country level. To turn these ideas into concrete actions and national progress, we developed the Gender Gap Closing Accelerators Model for Public-Private Collaboration.

These accelerators were organized in ten countries in three regions. Accelerators are established in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Panama in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank in Latin America and the Caribbean, Egypt and Jordan in the Middle East and North Africa, and Kazakhstan in Central Asia.

All national accelerators, as well as knowledge partner countries demonstrating global leadership in reducing gender gaps, are part of a larger ecosystem, the Global Learning Network, which facilitates the exchange of ideas. and experiences via the Forum platform.

In 2019, Egypt became the first country in the Middle East and Africa to launch an accelerator to close the gender gap. While more women than men are now enrolled in university, women make up just over a third of professional and technical workers in Egypt. Women in the workforce are also less likely to be paid the same as their male colleagues for equivalent work or to move into managerial positions.

In these countries, CEOs and ministers work together over a three-year period on policies that help to further close economic gender gaps in their countries. This includes extended parental leave, subsidized child care, and the removal of unconscious bias in recruitment, retention and promotion practices.

If you are a business in one of the Closing the Gender Gap accelerator countries, you can join the local member base.

If you are a business or government in a country where we do not currently have an accelerator to close the gender gap, you can contact us to explore the possibilities of creating one.

Other interventions include sustainable delivery of care services. One of these policies is to develop training programs for women to run community daycares and preschools with the support of state and local welfare agencies. These centers can also be expanded to provide childcare and nutrition counseling to new and young parents to reduce the time women spend looking after children and encourage a healthier division of labor. home care.

As we move on to live with the unprecedented health, economic and social impacts of the pandemic, the widening gender gap cannot take the same approach. Women must be at the center of recovery and growth efforts if we truly want a better and more equitable future for all.


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