• According to Oxfam, COVID-19 has caused women around the world $800 billion in lost income.
  • Some governments have already taken steps to address women’s economic and social security.
  • A fair and sustainable economic recovery from the pandemic must include women and address their needs.

The COVID-19 crisis cost women around the world $800 billion in lost income in 2020, Oxfam said, as it demanded steps to tackle gender inequality.

Women, overrepresented in low-paid, precarious sectors like retail, tourism and food services, lost more than 64 million jobs last year, said the charity, a 5% total loss, compared to a 3.9% loss for men.

The pandemic has "dealt a striking blow" to recent gains for women in the workforce, said Oxfam Executive Director Gabriela Bucher, in a written statement.

The $800 billion figure, based on International Labor Organisation data, likely underestimates the total cost shouldered by women since it does not include wages lost by millions of women in informal jobs.

The big picture:

COVID-19 unleashed an economic storm that has hit the poor and vulnerable hardest. Women lost their jobs at a faster rate than men due to many women working in hard-hit industries like restaurants and hotels.

Women in the informal economy lost out due to having little or no health care, unemployment benefits or other protections.

What are the key figures?

- Even before the virus struck, women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of daily unpaid care work - from cooking and cleaning to caring for sick relatives - a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year.

- An additional 47 million women worldwide are expected to fall into extreme poverty, living on less than $1.90 a day in 2021.

- In the U.S., one in six women of color are facing food insecurity because of the pandemic.

- According to the World Economic Forum, closing the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years due to negative outcomes for women in 2020.

What is being done?

Some governments have taken steps to address women’s economic and social security.

U.S. states are getting $39 billion from the federal government to support child care, part of a $1.9 trillion relief package that President Joe Biden signed in March.

New legislation in Argentina offers flexible work schedules to those caring for children or the disabled.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

The World Economic Forum has been measuring gender gaps since 2006 in the annual Global Gender Gap Report.

The Global Gender Gap Report tracks progress towards closing gender gaps on a national level. To turn these insights into concrete action and national progress, we have developed the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators model for public private collaboration.

These accelerators have been convened in ten countries across three regions. Accelerators are established in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Panama in partnership with the InterAmerican Development Bank in Latin America and the Caribbean, Egypt and Jordan in the Middle East and North Africa, and Kazakhstan in Central Asia.

All Country Accelerators, along with Knowledge Partner countries demonstrating global leadership in closing gender gaps, are part of a wider ecosystem, the Global Learning Network, that facilitates exchange of insights and experiences through the Forum’s platform.

In 2019 Egypt became the first country in the Middle East and Africa to launch a Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator. While more women than men are now enrolled in university, women represent only a little over a third of professional and technical workers in Egypt. Women who are in the workforce are also less likely to be paid the same as their male colleagues for equivalent work or to reach senior management roles.

In these countries CEOs and ministers are working together in a three-year time frame on policies that help to further close the economic gender gaps in their countries. This includes extended parental leave, subsidized childcare and removing unconscious bias in recruitment, retention and promotion practices.

If you are a business in one of the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator countries you can join the local membership base.

If you are a business or government in a country where we currently do not have a Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator you can reach out to us to explore opportunities for setting one up.

Only 11 countries have introduced shorter or flexible work arrangements for workers with care responsibilities, while 36 have strengthened family and paid sick leave for parents and caregivers, said Oxfam.

"As we move from emergency measures to long-term recovery, governments around the world must seize this opportunity to build more equal, more inclusive economies for all," said Bucher.

"A fair and sustainable economic recovery is one that supports women's employment and unpaid care work through strong social safety nets and vibrant care infrastructures. Recovery from COVID-19 is impossible without women recovering."