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Source: IMF – News in Russian

(STR / NurPhoto / Zuma photo) Kristalina Georgieva, Stefania Fabrizio, Cheng Hong Lim and Marina M. Tavares July 21, 2020 The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse the progress made in economic opportunities for women, and this will entail an expansion of the still a persistent gender gap, despite the gains made over the past 30 years. Well-designed economic recovery policies can mitigate the negative impact of the crisis on women and prevent further setbacks on the road to gender equality. Benefits for women ultimately help fight income inequality and promote economic growth and resilience Why has the COVID-19 crisis disproportionately affected women and their economic situation? There are several reasons for this: First, women tend to be more likely than men to work in social sectors such as services, retail, tourism and hospitality, which involve face-to-face contact. These industries were hit hardest by social distancing and crisis mitigation measures. In the United States, the unemployment rate for women was two percentage points higher than that for men from April to June 2020. Given the nature of women’s employment, telecommuting is not feasible for many of them. In the United States, about 54 percent of women in social services cannot work remotely. Second, in low-income countries, women are more likely than men to work in the informal sector. Informal labor is often paid in cash without formal oversight, resulting in women receiving lower wages, not protected by labor laws, and are not provided with pensions and health insurance. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the economic situation of workers in the informal sector has seriously deteriorated. For example, in Colombia, the contraction of economic activity increased the poverty rate among women by 3.3 per cent. According to UN estimates, the pandemic will increase the poverty headcount in Latin America and the Caribbean by 15.9 million, bringing the total poor population to 214 million, many of whom are women and girls. Third, women tend to do more unpaid domestic work than men — more precisely, about 2.7 hours more per day. Quarantine restrictions such as school closures and precautions for vulnerable elderly parents bear the brunt of household chores. With the lifting of quarantine restrictions, women are slower to return to full employment. In Canada, according to May employment reports, the rate for women increased by 1.1 percent compared to 2.4 percent for men, amid persistent problems with childcare. Moreover, among parents with at least one child under the age of 6, men are three times more likely to return to work than women. Fourth, the pandemic has increased the risk of women losing their human capital. In many developing countries, girls are forced to drop out of school and work to supplement family incomes. According to a report by the Malala Yusufzai Foundation, in Liberia, after the Ebola crisis, the proportion of girls out of school almost tripled, and in Guinea girls returned to school 25 percent less frequently than boys. In India, leading marriage agency sites have reported a 30 percent increase in new registered users since the COVID-19 quarantine measures were introduced; this is because families enter into arranged marriages to secure a future for their daughters. Without education, these girls are irrevocably losing human capital, denying opportunities to increase productivity in the economy and perpetuating poverty among women. It is important that policymakers take action to limit the harmful effects of the pandemic on women. Such measures may include targeted efforts to provide income support for vulnerable populations, employment programs for disadvantaged people, incentives to balance work and family life, improve access to health and family planning services, and expand support programs for small businesses and the self-employed. … Another priority is to remove legal barriers to women’s economic independence. Several countries have swiftly adopted a number of such policies: · Austria, Italy, Portugal and Slovenia have implemented a statutory right to (partially) paid leave for parents with children under a certain age; France has increased temporary disability benefits for parents affected by school closures in the absence of alternative childcare options. In Latin America, women leaders established the Coalition for Women’s Economic Empowerment as part of a larger nationwide effort to promote wider childcare. participation of women in economic recovery after the pandemic · In Togo, 65 percent of the participants in the new mobile cash transfer program are women. The program enables workers in the informal sector to receive grants equal to 30 percent of the minimum wage. In the longer term, public policy development can address gender inequality by creating conditions and providing incentives for women’s employment. As discussed in a recent blog post, gender responsive fiscal policies, such as investment in education and infrastructure, childcare subsidies and parental leave, are the most effective. Such measures play an important role not only in removing constraints that impede women’s economic independence, but are also necessary to facilitate a comprehensive economic recovery after the COVID-19 crisis. ***** Kristalina Georgieva (link to biography on the main page) Stefania Fabrizio – Deputy Chief Division of the Strategy, Policy and Analysis Department of the IMF. Prior to joining the IMF, she was a visiting professor at the University of Salamanca (Spain). Her research interests include macroeconomics, public finance and fiscal policy. She has worked in depth on policy issues related to the impact of macroeconomic measures and reforms on income distribution. Her scientific works have been published in leading economic publications. She holds a PhD in Economics from the European University Institute. Cheng Hong Lim is Deputy Director of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere Department. She has extensive experience in conducting surveillance programs in both emerging market and advanced economies. She is the author of publications on a wide range of topics, including as a co-editor of several published books. Ms. Lim holds a BA with Honors and is a Phi Beta Kappa Fellow at Smith College and a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Cambridge in 1994. Marina M. Tavares is an Economist in the Research Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She previously worked as an economist in the Department of Strategy, Policy and Analysis and led the IMF / UK Department for International Development’s joint work on inequality. Prior to joining the Foundation, Marina was an assistant professor at the Autonomous Institute of Technology Mexico (ITAM). She holds a PhD in economics from the University of Minnesota and an MA from the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mathematics (IMPA). Her research interests include macroeconomics, public finance, gender and inequality.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation from Russian Language to English.

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