World Economic Forum Releases Damning Report On COVID-19’s Disproportional Impact On Women
Portrait of young brunette female wearing red dress, looking down and holding her long hair.
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According to the World Economic Forum, the economic and societal impact of government policies imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic could disproportionately impact women, setting equality efforts back by as much as a generation.

The World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap Report” was released last month, and began:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has raised new barriers to building inclusive and prosperous economies and societies. Pre-existing gender gaps have amplified the crisis asymmetrically between men and women, even as women have been at the frontlines of managing the crisis as essential workers. The hardest hit sectors by lockdowns and rapid digitalization are those where women are more frequently employed. Combined with the additional pressures of providing care in the home, the crisis has halted progress toward gender parity in several economies and industries.”

“We hope that this report will serve as a call to action to leaders to embed gender parity as a central goal of our policies and practices to manage the post-pandemic recovery, to the benefit of our economies and our societies,” wrote Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director and Head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society.

In the “Key Findings” section, there are several results regarding “Gender Gaps, COVID-19 and the Future of Work” which should concern those on either side of the “gender wage gap” debate.

“Early projections from ILO suggest 5% of all employed women lost their jobs, compared with 3.9% of employed men,” the World Economic Forum reported. 

“LinkedIn data further shows a marked decline of women’s hiring into leadership roles, creating a reversal of 1 to 2 years of progress across multiple industries. While industries such as Software and IT Services, Financial Services, Health and Healthcare, and Manufacturing are countering this trend, there is a more severe destruction of overall roles in industries with higher participation of women, such as the Consumer sector, Non-profits, and Media and Communication,” the report continued.

The World Economic Forum report also discusses the acceleration of “automation and digitalization,” which is “speeding up labour market disruption.”

In “Chapter 2: Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Economic Gender Gaps,” a “Labour Market Scarring” section states that “The circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic have dramatically altered how men and women live and work as public-health measures have forced limitations to in-person work.” The report also claims that “Although in absolute terms 64 million women and 80 million men have lost their jobs, the relative impact is higher on working women simply because there are less women in the labour market overall.”

In the United States, the report noted that “employment figures were down by 4.4 percentage points for women and 3.9 percentage points for men,” and that “Data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics in the United States reveals that, in 2020, white men’s unemployment rate in the United States increased by 3.6 percentage points, but rose 4 percentage points for white women, 4.9 for black or African American women and 6.2 for Hispanic or Latina women. 

Among the multiple other findings were survey responses to issues like “work challenges,” with women with children in the household the most likely to experience “increased anxiety around job security,” “stress due to changes in work routines and organization,” or “stress due to family pressures (e.g. childcare).”