Home World Covid-19 Crisis Could Set Back a Generation of Women, U.N. Report Finds

Covid-19 Crisis Could Set Back a Generation of Women, U.N. Report Finds


The Covid-19 pandemic is squeezing working mothers out of the world’s labor pool in ways that could damage women’s economic prospects for years to come, according to a United Nations study.

The primary reason in many countries is child care. The report, from U.N. Women this week, said that at the peak of the lockdowns earlier this year, 1.7 billion children were affected by school closures. Some 224 million remain out of school, forcing many families to decide who must predominantly look after the children. “It is predominantly women—often paid less and with less job security than men—who are sacrificing their careers,” the study found. In some countries, women do up to 11 times more work than men caring for family members and neighbors, all of it unpaid.

Men are struggling, too. A study conducted by U.N. Women and the International Labour Organization found that in 55 high-and-middle-income countries, some 29 million men lost or left their jobs between the fourth quarter last year and the second quarter of 2020. But that is roughly the same as the number of women who lost or left their jobs, and given that there are proportionately fewer women in the workforce to begin with, the impact is higher.

The U.N.’s concern now is that many of these women might not return to work at all, particularly in areas hard-hit by Covid-19, such as Latin America, where the study found that 83 million women are outside the labor force, up from 66 million before the pandemic.

The U.S. has seen similar problems. Many lost American jobs were in the service sector, including retail, food service and personal care, which are heavily skewed toward female workers and particularly vulnerable to the effects of lockdowns and other social-distancing measures. The U.S. Labor Department found that the number of women aged 25 to 54 participating in the workforce dropped from 77% in January to 74% in May.



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