Women are at the receiving end of the plummeting economic activity due to Covid 19 pandemic as they are particularly vulnerable to layoffs and loss of livelihoods, according to a new report by UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
With Covid -19 pandemic shattering businesses, the income of women working in the informal sector have declined dramatically, said the report “From Insights to Action; Gender Equality in the wake of Covid-19.
The report pointed out that the hardest hit sectors are feminized sectors characterized by low pay and poor working conditions, including lack of basic worker protections like paid sick and family leave. Noting that accommodation and food service sectors have been devastated by job losses, the UN Women and UNDP said that women are over represented in these sectors in most of the countries.
They also note that domestic workers (majority are women) are at risk. While the need for care giving and cleaning services has increased, lockdowns and quarantine measures have made it difficult to maintain pre-pandemic working arrangements, resulting in a loss of income and employment among this largely female workforce, the report said. Moreover, the report also points out that employers have refused to pay wages during lockdowns unless staff agreed to shelter in place with them.
The UN Women and UNDP said that women on the front-lines were more affected by COVID-19. “Women make up 70 per cent of the health and social care workforce and they are more likely to be front-line health workers, especially nurses, midwives and community health workers. This exposure raises their risk of infection,” the report said.
The report also observed that personal care workers are also at high risk due to their close contact with others. Migrant women and women from marginalized ethnic groups are often overrepresented in these occupations. Economic necessity forces many to continue working, despite the risk of infection for them and their families, the report said.
TARGETED EFFORTS NEEDED
Stressing that targeted efforts are needed to protect women workers, the report said that women’s lesser access to land, financial capital and other assets made it harder for them to weather a crisis, bounce back and rebuild their small businesses. While men are more likely to see their working hours reduced (54 per cent of men vs. 50 per cent of women), more women have lost their jobs or businesses as a result of COVID-19 (25 per cent of women vs. 21 per cent of men), the report said.
As a step to mitigate the problems of women, the report said that women owned businesses need grants and other stimulus funding targeted specifically to them. It said that there was much to protect the health, safety and incomes of vulnerable female workers, including those in the informal sector.