2020 has been an unprecedented year. COVID-19 has touched everyone, in some way, whether physically, emotionally, socially or financially. Men and women have been affected differently. The pandemic is not a great equaliser but exacerbates inequalities in communities. Men are dying from COVID-19 more than women while the socio-economic impact has hit women harder than men. Here is how….
In Africa, the informal sector is one of the largest in the world. It contributes between 25 and 65 percent of Africa’s GDP and accounts for between 30 and 90 percent of total non-agricultural employment. Majority of workers in the informal sector are women. COVID-19 lockdown restrictions stopped workers in the informal sector from working: no work equals no pay. Women and other informal workers have been unable to make money, which increases their vulnerability to poverty and food insecurity.
According to the International Labour Organisation, 2 out of 3 jobs permanently lost due to COVID-19 are women’s jobs. These job losses mainly come from the hospitality industry, service industry, domestic workforce and tourism. Further, in these sectors, workers are subject to low pay and excluded from social protection (pension, healthcare, unemployment insurance), therefore making them more financially vulnerable after termination of employment.
Unpaid care work
Around the world, women spend two to ten times more on unpaid care work than men. Due to lockdown restrictions, schools and care facilities shut down. Globally, schools closed in over 190 countries, affecting 1.6 billion students. The duty to supervise children at home fell in the hands of women. This placed a heavier burden on single mothers to work and look after children at the same time.
Access to finance
In Africa, 70 percent of women are financially excluded and women’s access to finance and financial services is consistently behind that of their male counterparts. During difficult economic times this year, women had limited access to finance compared to men. This increases women’s economic insecurity, as it is harder to financially stay afloat and recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 impact on women will outlast the pandemic and will erode strides made toward gender equality. A gender lens must be applied in response to COVID-19 to address the needs of girls and women and advance their position in society.
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