COVID-19

COVID-19 has widened the gender poverty gap, says the UN

Women wearing face masks wait outside their home for city employees during a day of food aid deliveries, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bogota, Colombia April 21, 2020. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez - RC2E9G9KHY8L

COVID-19 is expected to bring the total number of women and girls in poverty to 435 million. Image: Reuters/Luisa Gonzalez - RC2E9G9KHY8L

Anastasia Moloney
Latin America and Caribbean Correspondent, Thomson Reuters Foundation
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on COVID-19?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how COVID-19 is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

COVID-19

This article is part of: Sustainable Development Impact Summit
  • The economic effects of COVID-19 have been felt around the world.
  • The sectors that women work in and the informality of these roles means women are more likely to lose their jobs when compared to their male counterparts.
  • COVID-19 is expected to push another 47 million women and girls into poverty, bringing the total number to 435 million.

The coronavirus pandemic will widen the poverty gap between women and men, pushing 47 million more women and girls into impoverished lives by next year, and undoing progress made in recent decades, the United Nations said.

Worldwide more women than men will be made poor by the economic fallout and massive job losses caused by COVID-19, with informal workers worst hit in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, according to new U.N. estimates.

Have you read?

"The increases in women's extreme poverty ... are a stark indictment of deep flaws in the ways we have constructed our societies and economies," Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the head of U.N. Women, said in a statement.

During the pandemic, women have lost their jobs at a faster rate than men have, as they are more likely to be employed in the sectors hardest hit by long lockdowns such as retail, restaurants and hotels, it said.

Women are also more likely to work in the informal economy, typically in jobs as domestic workers and cleaners that often come with little or no health care, unemployment benefits or other protections.

Macaria Perdom, 38, an inmate at Centro Penal de La Esperanza (La Esperanza Prison), stands between bunks, as she eats lunch inside a prison cell in front of fellow inmate Vilma Alicia Rodriguez Banegas, who watches television, inside a cell that they share with several other women, in La Esperanza, Intibuca, Honduras, February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Adrees Latif      SEARCH
Image: REUTERS/Adrees Latif

"We know that women take most of the responsibility for caring for the family; they earn less, save less and hold much less secure jobs," Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

According to the U.N.'s International Labour Organization (ILO), about 70% of domestic workers globally had lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 by June this year.

Overall, the pandemic will push an additional 96 million people into extreme poverty by next year, of whom nearly half are women and girls, according to estimates by U.N. Women and the U.N's Development Programme (UNDP).

Coronavirus Covid-19 virus infection China Hubei Wuhan contagion spread economics dow jones S&P 500 stock market crash 1929 depression great recession
The total number of women and girls worldwide living in extreme poverty will rise to 435 million. Image: United Nations

This will bring the total number of women and girls worldwide living in extreme poverty to 435 million - defined as a person living on $1.90 a day or less - and it is expected that this figure will not revert to pre-pandemic levels until 2030.

By 2021, for every 100 men aged 25 to 34 living in extreme poverty, there will be 118 women - a gap expected to increase to 121 women per 100 men by 2030, according to U.N. estimates.

Governments could adopt measures to help women in low-paid and informal jobs, said Achim Steiner, a UNDP administrator.

"More than 100 million women and girls could be lifted out of poverty if governments implement a comprehensive strategy aimed at improving access to education and family planning, fair and equal wages, and expanding social transfers," Steiner said.

Nearly three in every five of the world's poor women live in sub-Saharan Africa, and the region will continue to be home to the highest number of the world's poorest after the pandemic.

Recent gains made in reducing poverty rates in South Asia are threatened as the region is set to face a "resurgence" in extreme poverty, with women worst affected, the U.N. said.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
COVID-19Economic Progress
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Winding down COVAX – lessons learnt from delivering 2 billion COVID-19 vaccinations to lower-income countries

Charlotte Edmond

January 8, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum