A gender-mainstreamed response to COVID-19 is crucial for a sustainable future 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created profound social and economic challenges across the world. Lockdown measures have affected 2.7 billion workers globally, according to the International Labor Organization, and will cause an estimated loss of $5 trillion of growth over the next two years – greater than the annual output of Japan.

In this time of crisis, governments and financial institutions across the world are actively working to drive the economic recovery with substantial stimulus packages. Over $10 trillion in stimulus packages have already been launched or announced globally, but economic recovery plans must be aligned with sustainability and gender equality goals in order to build a more sustainable, resilient and equitable future. Our collective ability to advance these interlinked goals will determine the lasting impacts of the pandemic. 

As previously covered on our blog, COVID-19 is deepening pre-existing inequalities and exposing vulnerabilities in the social, economic and political systems that have made us all more vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic. The current crisis calls for a gender-inclusive response, as evidence across sectors shows that policies that are not implemented with a gender lens are simply less effective, and can even do harm.

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According to the International Labor Organization, COVID-19 will affect labor markets in three ways:  

  1. The quantity of jobs, both in terms of unemployment and underemployment; 
  2. The quality of work, for example access to social protection; and,
  3. Effects on specific groups that are more vulnerable to adverse labor market outcomes; 

The first building block for an inclusive and gender-balanced response to the pandemic will be to collect gender-disaggregated data that can be used to evaluate the current situation and will be crucial to design effective interventions. Policymakers should be able to evaluate changes taking place in the labor market as well as identify how the pandemic is impacting different demographics.  

Gathering gender-disaggregated data on unemployment, access to social protection, and responses to stay-at-home orders are necessary to estimate the size of the need for both men and women. Gender-disaggregated data should inform the design of policy solutions that are proportionate to the size of need.  

Policymakers should also integrate gender-based assessments to analyse the impact of policy measures to ensure that they do not inadvertedly hinder women’s participation to the labor force or acess to social protection.  

Fundamentally, these policy solutions should actively involve women in the recovery and response decision-making process. Experience demonstrates that including women at all levels leads to better outcomes, as diversity of voices in the decision-making process will enrich the final decision.  

A pandemic deepens existing inequalities, but if we choose to repeat past policies we will fail to build a more sustainable and resilient future for all. Now more than ever, we should focus our efforts on designing inclusive and gender-mainstreamed social and economic policies that will drive more sustainable outcomes and support a more rapid recovery. 

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