COVID-19 and the challenges to gender equality
While the world grapples with the public health and economic fallout of COVID-19, the pandemic is also having a regressive impact on gender equality. Women are bearing the brunt of the economic impact; according to recent research by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs. While women make up 39 per cent of global employment, they account for 54 per cent of overall job losses.
An important factor is the burden of unpaid care, which has risen during the pandemic, that falls disproportionately to women. Other factors include the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on female entrepreneurship, the scarcity of family resources in the crisis, as well as attitudes that shape how women experience the economic consequences of a crisis relative to men.
The COVID-19 setback to gender equality follows a period of scant progress. Despite growing awareness of and support for greater gender equality, tangible progress towards parity in work and society has stagnated in the five years between 2014 and 2019, as reported in the MGI’s research. The pandemic is now threatening to undermine the incremental progress made in recent years.
Without intervention to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women, the MGI estimates that global GDP growth could be US$1 trillion lower in 2030 than if women’s employment tracked that of men in each sector. Conversely however, taking immediate steps to redress the balance could add US$13 trillion to global GDP in 2030.
Reversing this regressive trend will require investment in education, family planning, maternal mortality prevention, digital inclusion, and unpaid care work. With the economic and social shock of COVID-19 driving new ways of thinking about how we work, the crisis represents an opportunity to drive new policies that better capture the substantial economic opportunity of female workplace participation.
Organised in partnership between Asia House and the MGI, this event will discuss the regressive impact of COVID-19 on gender equality, and consider how policymakers and business leaders can act now to remove barriers to greater female labour force participation and a bigger role in society, reaping benefits to economy and society as a whole.
To register interest in this event, please email Edward Danks, Content Producer: firstname.lastname@example.org