One thing we’ve learned months after the start of a devastating pandemic: It has been disproportionately harder on women than men.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said as much in a report last month, when it pointed out how women are taking on a far bigger share than men of housework, caring for elderly relatives or children, and now home schooling. And that is on top of a day job in many cases.
But the worst has yet to come, as many more women than men will be laid off, if they haven’t already, a new Citigroup report says.
Economists Dana Peterson and Catherine Mann lay down some jarring figures that reveal damage to the global economy from pandemic job losses for women.
They point out that more than 220 million women globally are in vulnerable sectors. They expect 31 million to lose their jobs, as opposed to 13 million men. “Indeed, preliminary data suggest that women are already bearing more of the burden of layoffs than are men: for example, 1.6-times more in the United States,” the pair says.
And here comes the price tag.
“If approximately 31 million women in six key sectors lost their jobs on account of Covid-19, then the equivalent loss to real global GDP [gross domestic product] might sum to as much as US$1 trillion, or represent 1.2% of the 3.6 percentage point drop in 2020 global GDP growth we expect,” say the economists.
Their modeling shows industries such as education, retail, hotels, and restaurants, which tend to employ large groups of women and may not rehire or replace lost workers through 2021. And even those who do return may need to cut their hours, take leave, or even change professions to take care of children, again at a higher rate than men.
Sadly, unemployment and poverty risks for women are expected to rise as the pandemic subsides. That’s notably within emerging markets and Southern Europe, but “even in wealthy economies like Japan and the U.S., female poverty rates are elevated and the gap with poor men is quite wide,” Peterson and Mann say.
What to do? Citi economists urge policy makers to “take women into account in policies intended to address Covid-19 economic disruptions. Many policy prescriptions predate the pandemic, and are even more suitable now.”
Among their suggestions: public child care options for working parents in essential sectors or alternative public care arrangements, direct financial support to workers who need to take leave, and financial subsidies to employers who offer that. Small business support is vital in emerging countries, where many of those companies are run by women. As well, cash transfers and food aid to keep the most vulnerable—women and children—from falling into poverty.
Another key step: Get more women involved in decision-making processes, such as prevention and response to Covid-19.
Write to Barbara Kollmeyer at firstname.lastname@example.org