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DAVOS 2021: 'Multi-stakeholder approach' needed to combat coronavirus-induced 'recession for women and girls'

Portrait of female healthcare coworkers with face mask on operating room at hospital. Photo: Getty
Portrait of female healthcare coworkers with face mask on operating room at hospital. Photo: Getty

Women, especially those from ethnic minorities and developing nations, are being disproportionately hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

It has just been over a year since the first COVID-19 case was reported in China and the statistics on how its affecting the global workforce are staggering. The World Economic Forum (WEF) said “the pandemic has created a ‘double-double shift’ of at least 20 hours per week of additional work for women at home and is potentially exacerbating existing gender gaps.”

Meanwhile, on a personal level, domestic violence has increased over the period. For example, in England and Wales, police recorded and increase of 7% of domestic abuse cases. This is remembering that not all domestic abuse cases are reported. In the US, experts pointed out that calls about intimate partner violence (IPV) dropped during certain periods in the pandemic but “they knew that rates of IPV had not decreased, but rather that victims were unable to safely connect with services,” since people have been forced to stay at home more or encounter a lockdown.

READ MORE: DAVOS 2021: COVID crisis won't end until developing nations get vaccine

On a panel, entitled “Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work, and Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators,” at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) digital annual gathering of the world’s most powerful people — dubbed The Davos Agenda, for this year — some of the globe’s most influential women discussed what policies, practices and partnerships are needed to shape an equal future of work for women and accelerate progress towards parity.

Ann Linde, minister of foreign affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden said on the panel that “we have a recession for women and girls.”

“If people were hesitant from [acknowledging a gender inequality exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic] at the beginning, I don’t think they have doubts anymore,” said Linde.

“The violence against women and girls has increased dramatically and economic downturn has specifically hit women hard because women’s position in labour market is less secure and often in the informal sector, and they bear the most responsibility for unpaid care work and also do the greatest amount of homeschooling.”

Laura Liswood, secretary-general, Council of Women World Leaders said that a particular “multi-stakeholder” is needed to bring about gender parity.

“A multi-stakeholder approach is essential for each sector. Government’s has great influence, the private sector has resources, and civil society has the grassroots to enact. This is the foundation.”

The staggering impact COVID-19 has had on women

Back in July 2020, global consultancy McKinsey said in a report, entitled, ‘COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects,’ that “we can already see that the pandemic and its economic fallout are having a regressive effect on gender equality.”

“By our calculation, women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs. Women make up 39% of global employment but account for 54% of overall job losses.

“One reason for this greater effect on women is that the virus is significantly increasing the burden of unpaid care, which is disproportionately carried by women. This, among other factors, means that women’s employment is dropping faster than average, even accounting for the fact that women and men work in different sectors.”

Fast forward to January 2021 and the latest data from the world’s biggest economy — the US — showed that its economy lost 140,000 jobs in December. 2020 and all of them were held by women.

WATCH: US economy lost 140,000 jobs in December

If you are a woman of colour, especially as a Black woman, you are even more vulnerable in society right now:

A United Nations (UN) report last year said that “the pandemic will push 96 million people into extreme poverty by 2021, 47 million of whom are women and girls.” This equates to the total number of women and girls living on $1.90 or less, to 435 million. The UN says that the reason for the disparity is clear:

  • Women tend to earn less and have fewer savings

  • Women are disproportionately more in the informal economy

  • Women are more likely to be burdened with unpaid care and domestic work, and therefore have to drop out of the labour force

  • Women make up the majority of single-parent households

READ MORE: DAVOS 2021: Biggest coronavirus vaccination rollout threat isn't about supply — it's conspiracy theories