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COVID-19 Could Condemn Women To Decades of Poverty: Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Women's and Girls' Economic Justice and Rights

by Mareen Buschmann; Sarah Fuhrman

Apr 30, 2020

The majority of women around the world work in low-paid positions, the informal economy, or in agriculture jobs with few protections. These are the sectors that are being worst hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19, and as the crisis drags on and worsens across the Global South, millions will be left without work, and in poverty.

740 million women work in the informal sector, which has been worst hit by the economic fall out of the coronavirus.[1] Furthermore women are less likely to benefit from recovery and stabilisation measures, as gender and social norms prohibit access to economic opportunities and financial resources.

This study reveals how the global pandemic is having a real and immediate economic impact on women in the developing world. Here, 45 million women work in the garment industry, and face the loss of their sole income; while nearly 44 million female domestic workers across the world, and the tens of millions of poor rural women reliant on farming, can no longer access fields and livelihoods.

  • Women and girls face a particular risk of infection due to the types of work that they do. For example, women make up over 70% of the global health and social workforces, frontline jobs that increase their likelihood of contracting COVID-19.
  • Economic downturns particularly affect women and girls. Many are employed in the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic -- including entertainment, retail, tourism, travel, and smallholder farming -- as well as in the informal economy and as migrant workers.
  • Women's and girls' economic opportunities are diminished. For instance, unpaid care burdens are increasing as livelihood opportunities are decreasing, and women entrepreneurs face adversity in rebuilding their livelihoods.
  • Women's and girls' access to financial services is decreasing. An economic downturn will especially affect access to financial inclusion; however, access to financial resources will be vital for overcoming the crisis.
  • Gender-based violence -- of all types -- is on the rise and risking lives. Women and girls are more exposed to domestic violence while quarantined with their abusers. Financial stress and unemployment further contribute to an increased risk.
  • Lack of women's and girls' leadership and voice and regressing gender norms. Women and girls are already marginalised from decision-making within their households, communities and the wider economy. COVID-19 could increase this marginalisation.