In a new policy brief titled, ‘Building Forward Fairer: Women’s rights to work and at work at the core of the COVID-19 recovery’, the International Labour Organization reported that the disproportionate job loss faced by women will continue to persist in the post-covid era. Even though a large part of the world has woken up to the glaring inequalities women face in the workplace, to make matters worse, the ILO said that ‘there will be 13 million fewer women in employment in 2021 compared to 2019, while men’s employment will have recovered to 2019 levels.’ Although the job growth for women is set to increase by 2022, it will not bring back female employment to pre-pandemic levels and therefore, only 43.2% of women will be employed across the world, as compared to 68.6% of men in the working age.
Gender, personal attributes like ethnicity, nationality, age, disability have also caused deeper disparities in the job market
In Asia alone, the pandemic led to a decrease of 3.8% for women as compared to a decline of 2.9% for men. The biggest reason for this was the lack of necessary infrastructure of care services for children and the elderly which forced women to only focus on familial responsibilities, which meant that they had to leave their jobs. Moreover, within the umbrellas of gender, personal attributes like ethnicity, nationality, age, disability have also caused deeper disparities in the job market, not to mention that there is also a difference in the quality of jobs offered to men as compared to women. ‘Even before the pandemic, jobs with a high concentration of women were characterized by low wages, long working hours, limited opportunities for career advancement and exposure to occupational health and safety risks as well as violence and harassment,’ said the brief. In spite of all these challenges, women continue to bear the larger burden of essential work like housework and caregiving and even though plenty of jobs shifted to remote work, women still continue to struggle even when though they are working from home.
“When workers lose their jobs, it is of crucial importance to establish mechanisms for their re-entry into employment as early as possible”
Did you know that women fared better in countries that created solutions to prevent women from losing their jobs during the pandemic? Countries like Botswana and Argentina provided salary subsidies in exchange for a guarantee that they will not quit their jobs. Similarly, Czechia supported women who were self-employed in the country, while Chile and Malaysia gave employees access to unemployment insurance during the covid crisis. ‘When workers lose their jobs, it is of crucial importance to establish mechanisms for their re-entry into employment as early as possible,’ added the brief. ILO’s is highlighting “building forward fairer” and the need for countries to create gender-responsive strategies during times of crises like this pandemic. Moreover, India needs to invest in the care sector because this directly affects working women and their contribution to the economy. The entire world is in desperate need of ‘promoting equal pay for work of equal value’ and one way to make this a reality is to involve more women leaders in the decision-making process in terms of policies and labour laws.