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7 April 2019
Why gender matters in our global response to the COVID-19 crisis
The economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has placed one-third of the global population under some form of travel restriction, are not gender-neutral. COVID-19 does not affect men and women equally, and the current crisis calls for a gender-balanced response across all sectors of the industry.
Locating gender inequalities in the context of the current disease outbreak is the first step to understanding the primary and secondary effects of COVID-19 on individuals and communities, and to create effective and equitable policies and interventions that can benefit the industry as a whole.
In what ways are women impacted by the coronavirus crisis?
UN Women highlights that women will be disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 outbreak because of their primary role as caregivers, health workers and community workers. In addition, women are more vulnerable to economic shocks because they are more likely to be employed on temporary contracts, and their economic insecurity worsened by the gender pay gap.
As the effects of work and travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19 roll through economies globally, impacting employment opportunities, temporary workers are the most vulnerable to job losses. In addition, in the absence of gender-sensitive interventions, workers on part-time or temporary contracts are less likely to benefit from social support schemes such as social welfare support and unemployment benefits.
Unpaid work is set to increase, calling for more flexible work arrangements that can advance gender balance.
As the crisis put households under increasing strain, the amount of unpaid work is set to increase. As UNCTAD points out, measures to contain the pandemic such as social distancing, quarantine and the closure of school and recreation facilities imply additional household work and responsibility.
GWEC’s 2019 Wind Energy: A Gender Perspective report in collaboration with IRENA highlights that inflexible workplace practices that do not allow workers to balance professional and family commitments constitute one of the biggest barriers to women’s entry and job retention in the wind energy industry. In light of the current situation, gender-mainstreamed interventions in the workplace will require a greater focus on providing flexible work arrangements for employees whose unpaid hours caring for household members have increased.
The good news is that COVID-19 is responsible for the largest global work-from-home experiment, which has proven the feasibility of flexible work arrangements that provide a choice to employees to work away from the office. As the unprecedented situation forces businesses to realize that presence is not fundamental to the achievement of company goals and objectives, flexibility in the workplace should be upheld as a best practice to create inclusive workplaces.
Ensuring that the response to the COVID-19 outbreak is gender-balanced means safeguarding progress on gender equality.
There is an urgency to ensure that restriction measures to contain the spread of the virus, such as school closures, will not exacerbate existing gender inequalities in education, particularly in disadvantaged regions. Governments must keep all young people engaged in learning and factor in gender considerations when planning for school resumption.
Our collective ability to bounce back from the pandemic greatly depends on the inclusivity of our response. And there is a strong argument to be made for considering the current crisis as a pivot point for shaping more inclusive business practices that could make the whole industry more resilient to future shocks.
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