The fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has been disastrous for women.
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Millions of women worldwide have been disproportionately affected by job losses, with many more left to bear the brunt of massive disruptions to childcare and education.
Globally, women lost at least $800 billion in income last year, according to a new report from Oxfam International. That’s more than the combined gross domestic products of 98 countries, the $700 billion market capitalization Amazon topped last year and the nearly $721.5 billion that the US government spent in 2020 on the world’s largest defense budget, the global organization said.
“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,” said Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International. “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.”
The organization cites the total income loss as a “conservative estimate” that doesn’t account for “wages lost by the millions of women working in the informal economy” – which they describe as domestic workers, market vendors and garment workers.
“Covid-19 has dealt a striking blow to recent gains for women in the workforce,” Bucher said.
On a global scale, women account for more than 64 million jobs lost last year. That’s 5% of all jobs held by women, compared to a 3.9% loss for men, according to OxFam.
The economic blowback of those losses has been even more catastrophic.
“We were facing a crisis of inequality before 2020 and that’s now exploded. That’s as a result of a lack of attention to gender sensitive policy making and leaving women on their own to cope with this crisis and to absorb the systemic failures that have led us to this point,” said Mara Bolis, associate director of Women’s Economic Empowerment at Oxfam America.
And the drastic impact of the pandemic on women could have long-lasting consequences.
Even before the pandemic, women suffered from massive inequities in wages and work. Women, worldwide only earn 77 cents per every dollar that men make, according to the United Nations. The onslaught of the coronavirus crisis has only exacerbated gender inequalities and could make the gender pay gap even worse.
“It took a crisis to make the invisible visible,” Bolis said.
Now, with the economic recovery underway, much of it has hinged on effective vaccine rollouts and the administration of more vaccine doses. So far, at least 188 countries and territories have administered more than 1 billion doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Other measurable efforts have also been underway in the US. Recently, the Biden administration pumped $39 billion in relief funds to states to help childcare providers stay in business or reopen, which it says is the single largest investment in childcare in US history. That has now been followed by a proposed $1.8 trillion plan, known as the American Families Plan, to help the nation’s economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
“A fair and sustainable economic recovery is one that supports women’s employment and unpaid care work through strong social safety nets and vibrant care infrastructures,” Bucher said. “Recovery from Covid-19 is impossible without women recovering.”