Covid 19 Costs Women globally more than USD 800 billion in lost income in the last pandemic year

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for all but there is one striking feature about this virus led pandemic that made people warier of their privileges over others- yes, the inequalities. While the virus did not discriminate between human divided vulnerabilities, the treatment and resourced did pose as a significant indicator of the inequalities all across the globe, with the economically, socially and physiologically vulnerable sections being the recipients of greater losses and consequences. While privileges of resources were witnessed by all, another inequality that went unnoticed was the gap in accessibility of opportunities between genders.
A recent report published by Oxfam statistically pointed out this striking inequality, with women around the world losing at least USD 800 billion in income in the pandemic year of 2020. To hint at the significance of this number, note that this figure is almost equivalent to a combined GDP or total income of about 98 countries. This roots in the fact that women lost more than 64 million jobs last year. While the unemployment rate was at an all-time high due to the recession brought along with the virus, the inequality was up as well. The number of job losses for women accounts for about 5 per cent, as compared to the 3.9 per cent loss for men. Note this fact keeping in mind the difference between labour force participation between men and women and the difference between the two absolute numbers, even though it may not seem in percentages.
“Economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is having a harsher impact on women, who are disproportionately represented in sectors offering low wages, few benefits and the least secure jobs. Instead of righting that wrong, governments treated women’s jobs as dispensable —and that has come at a cost of at least $800 billion in lost wages for those in formal employment”, said Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International. And if you ask if the governments are trying to tackle these inequalities now that the information and data are painting a clearer picture, well, the answer for most is a no. The budget presented by most economies aims at tackling the economic contraction, which however is the need of the hour, but fails to touch the issue of inequalities. And even those that have tried including positive measures like the US and Argentina, the response remains grossly insufficient in accordance with the situation.
The real story is even grimmer than it seems, both for the loss and the comparison. It is because this conservative estimate doesn’t even include wages lost by the millions of women working in the informal economy —domestic workers, market vendors and garment workers— who have been sent home or whose hours and wages have been drastically cut. COVID-19 has dealt a striking blow to recent gains for women in the workforce. For third world countries like India, the women labour force is a significantly greater participant of these sectors.  Across South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, the majority of women work in informal employment. Women also make up roughly 70 per cent of the world’s health and social care workforce —essential but often poorly paid jobs that put them at greater risk from COVID-19.  And it is ironic to note that while the women in the country were suffering losses, along with many other economically and socially vulnerable sections, the world added a large number of people to the list of billionaires, with big businesses like Amazon and Reliance Ltd. Thriving more than ever in the pandemic year. For example- Amazon gained $700 billion in market capitalization in 2020. The $800 billion in income lost by women worldwide also just tops the $721.5 billion that the US government spent in 2020 on the world’s largest defence budget. As if wag gaps and lack of opportunities weren’t enough!
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One of the most significant reasons for this divide roots in the structural problems in the system of the world, with women being overrepresented in low-paid, precarious sectors like that of tourism, retail and food services. Unsurprisingly, these sectors were the hardest hit during the pandemic. Across the globe, women have been more likely than men to drop out of the workforce or reduce their hours during the pandemic, largely due to care responsibilities. Even before the virus struck, women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day —a contribution to the global economy of at least USD 10.8 trillion a year, more than three times the size of the global tech industry. “For women in every country on every continent, along with losing income, unpaid care work has exploded. As care needs have spiked during the pandemic, women —the shock absorbers of our societies— have stepped in to fill the gap, an expectation so often imposed by sexist social norms,” said Bucher.
Looking at the current dynamic and most governments’ responses, it would be safe to say that the impact of this loss would be felt unevenly for a long time to come. From reports released by Oxfam, it is believed that an additional 47 million women worldwide are expected to fall into extreme poverty, living on less than $1.90 a day in 2021. In the US, 1 in 6 women of colour is facing food security because of the pandemic. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), closing the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years due to negative outcomes for women in 2020. “As we move from emergency measures to long-term recovery, governments around the world must seize this opportunity to build more equal, more inclusive economies for all. They must invest in gender, the racial and climate-just economic recovery that prioritizes public services, social protection, fair taxation, and ensure everyone everywhere has access to a free vaccine,” added Bucher.
Recovery is a recovery in the true sense only if it is inclusive, far-reaching and for all.

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