The long-term devastating impact of the pandemic on Gender equality

WEF Geneva, March 31, 2021: The World Economic Forum has raised concerns about the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on women and how the world has regressed in terms of gender equality.

These views were expressed after a range of studies emerged showing higher unemployment and greater child-care responsibilities landed on women and how targets for gender parity were slipping away.The Organization which tracks gender disparity in 156 countries said in late 2019 that gender equality was 99 years away, but this year’s report shows the world is not on track to close the gender gap for another 135.6 years.

The WEF tracks equality between genders across four areas: education, health, economic opportunity and political empowerment.

Amongst all the factors, equality in the workplace is going to take the longest to achieve and has been further exacerbated by the pandemic.

The WEF pointed to a study by the UN’s International Labour Organization showing that women were more likely to lose their jobs in the crisis, partly because they are disproportionately represented in sectors directly disrupted by lock-downs.

Women were carrying a greater share of the burden of increased housework and childcare during lockdowns, contributing to higher stress and lower productivity. Women were also being hired back at a slower rate than men as workplaces opened up again.

WEF managing director Saadia Zahidi says, “If we want a dynamic future economy, it is vital for women to be represented in the jobs of tomorrow,” she said, stressing the importance of embedding gender parity into the recovery process.

The political sphere shows a dismal picture too, with several large-population countries seeing the political gender gap widen. Women still hold just over a quarter of parliamentary seats worldwide, and only 22.6 percent of ministerial positions and the gap here is expected to close no sooner than 145 years, down by 50% from the original 2019 forecast.

The march of progress also varies regionally, with the West poised to close the gap in less than half the time it will take for countries in the MENA region for example.

Once again, the Nordic countries dominated the top of the table: the gap between men and women was narrowest in Iceland, followed by Finland and Norway. New Zealand took fourth place, ahead of Sweden.

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