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UN Women report on COVID-19 relief for women


Women were significantly less likely to report receiving pandemic-related cash relief from governments or non-profits, according to a new report by United Nations Women.


GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Women, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the “Women and girls left behind” report (Global level)
  2. Data: Unequal Impact of COVID-19 on Women in India (W.R.T., Lockdown till early 2021)
  3. Growing domestic work as a primary cause?
  4. Constraints in Female Labour Force Participation

Highlights of the “Women and girls left behind” report (Global level)

  • The report titled Women and girls left behind: Glaring gaps in pandemic responses compiled and analysed the results of Rapid Gender Assessment surveys (RGA) from April 2020-March 2021, which include 58 countries across all regions.
  • Women and girls disproportionately suffered the socio-economic impacts of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), be it through lost jobs and reduced work hours, increased intensity of care and domestic work and strains on their physical and mental health.
  • Almost 30% of working mothers living with children lost their jobs compared to only 20% of working men living with children.
  • Young women living with children were also hard-hit, with more than 55% seeing reduced paid work hours as opposed to less than 45% of young men living with children.
  • Single women living with children were particularly left behind, being less than half as likely as single men living with children to receive cash relief (12% of women versus 25% of men).
  • Women without children (single, widowed or partnered) were also less likely to receive cash relief (8% of women versus 17% of men).
  • The report revealed that government cash relief was not associated with losing one’s job in most countries. In 25 out of 34 countries surveyed, loss of jobs had no impact on whether women reported receiving cash relief from government.
  • Nearly 95% women in Asia and almost 90% of women in sub-Saharan Africa earn income through informal labour, characterised by insecurity and insufficient social protection. It is often not counted by governments and aid agencies.

Data: Unequal Impact of COVID-19 on Women in India (W.R.T., Lockdown till early 2021)

  • Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt. Ltd. show that 61% of male workers were unaffected during the lockdown while only 19% of women experienced this kind of work security.
  • Women have lost more jobs irrespective of the industry in which they were employed.
  • Unlike men who had the option of moving into fallback employment arrangements like self-employment and daily wage work, women seemed to have far fewer options.
  • 47% of employed women who had lost jobs during the lockdown, had not returned to work, while the number stood at only 7% for men.
  • Nearly half of the women workers, irrespective of whether they were salaried, casual, or self-employed, withdrew from the workforce, as compared to only 11% of men.
  • Even as new entrants to the workforce, women workers had poorer options compared to men. Women were more likely to enter as daily wage workers while men found avenues for self-employment. This leads to more precarious work and lower earnings as compared to men.

Growing domestic work as a primary cause?

  • With the lockdowns in place and almost everyone limited to the confines of their homes, household responsibilities have increased for women. There has been a massive increase in the burden of household work for women.
  • The India Working Survey 2020 found that among employed men, the number of hours spent on paid work remained more or less unchanged after the pandemic. But for women, the number of hours spent in domestic work has increased manifold. This increase in household work came without any accompanying relief in the hours spent on paid work.
  • This could lead to a situation where married women and women from larger households are less likely to return to work, suggesting that the burden of care may be a reason for poor employment recovery.

Constraints in Female Labour Force Participation

  1. Stereotyping in Society: India’s societal norms are such that women are expected to take the responsibility of family care and childcare. This stereotype is a critical barrier to women’s labour force participation. Due to this, women are in constant conflict over-allotment of time for work and life is a war of attrition for them.
  2. Digital Divide: In India in 2019, internet users were 67% male and 33% female, and this gap is even bigger in rural areas. This divide can become a barrier for women to access critical education, health, and financial services, or to achieve success in activities or sectors that are becoming more digitized.
  3. Technological Disruption: Women hold most of the administrative and data-processing roles that artificial intelligence and other technologies threaten to usurp. As routine jobs become automated, the pressure on women will intensify and they will experience higher unemployment rates.
  4. Lack of Gender-Related Data: Globally, major gaps in gendered data and the lack of trend data make it hard to monitor progress. In India, too, significant gaps in data on the girl child prevent a systematic longitudinal assessment of the lives of girls.
  5. Impact of Covid-19: Owing to Covid-19, global female employment is 19% more at risk than male employment (ILO estimates). For India, several estimates show that, compared to men, women were 9.5% less likely to be employed in August 2020 compared to August 2019.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

November 2023