Women as drivers of economic recovery and resilience during COVID-19 and beyond

Statement by UN Women and Women 20 (W20) to G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors


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The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a massive global economic downturn with global growth projected at –4.9 per cent for 2020. Working-hour losses are estimated to reach 14 per cent worldwide in the second quarter of 2020, equivalent to 400 million full-time jobs. G20 economies have introduced a firepower support package of USD 8 trillion to cushion households and businesses and facilitate recovery. It is vital that these major efforts address women’s distinct economic roles, contributions and constraints, and make the most of this opportunity to put women at the centre of investment design to realize sustainable recovery. 

527 million women work in the four hardest-hit sectors – accommodation and food services, real estate, business and administrative activities, manufacturing, and wholesale/retail trade, unsuitable for remote-working. This represents 41 per cent of total female employment vis-à-vis 35 percent of total male employment. Of 740 million informal economy women workers, 42 per cent work in these sectors vis-à-vis 32 per cent of men. Women comprise 70 per cent of the global health workforce, at the front lines of response. Already encumbered by gendered labour-market disadvantages, women workers have been disproportionately affected by job loss, reduced working hours and bankruptcy. Also, health risks to health workers, paid and unpaid care work and violence against women have escalated with COVID-19 and lockdowns.

Women contribute 37 per cent of the global GDP. Moreover all types of women’s care work, including unpaid work generate USD 11 trillion globally (9 per cent of global GDP).  Deploying women’s full potential is critical to economic recovery. However, it is unclear how much the sizeable G20 (or non-G20) economic packages have invested in women’s priorities, despite evidence that the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 are worse for women.

The crisis will worsen economic loss, including the  USD 160 trillion loss in wealth globally due to gender earning gaps. If shrinking fiscal space in countries of the Global South prompts spending cuts in public services, this will have further harsh impact on poor women and girls.

Intentional expansion of fiscal space that recognizes and invests in women’s specific priorities must be central to the design of recovery packages. Enabling women’s potential fully and equally with men promotes sustainable, balanced, inclusive growth, improves the representation of women within institutions and intergenerational development outcomes, and is also thus crisis-cushioning. This will ensure BUILDING BACK BETTER beyond COVID-19, achieving G20 commitments to gender equality, accelerating the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

We, UN Women and W20, call upon G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to lead and co-ordinate global efforts to promote:

  1. Gender responsive impact reviews of the crisis, recovery packages and plans worldwide, especially for the worst-affected women and girls, in order to guide investment priorities.
  2. Greater fiscal space for countries of the Global South, including through debt relief/ cancellation, increasing their global liquidity via Special Drawing Rights, and expansionary monetary policies that enhance credit availability including to women-specific sectors via loan guarantees and other loan instruments.
  3. Greater investment in gender-responsive budgeting globally to ensure that fiscal policies advance gender equality in short and long-term recovery via legislation enshrining it in the design of fiscal policy and budgetary and financial management processes.

We, UN Women and W20, urge G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors toguide sectoral ministriesto invest in women’s immediate and longer-term priorities:

  1. Inclusive governance and decision-making
    • Ensure women’s active participation and leadership in COVID-19 response and beyond.
    • Collect and disseminate sex-disaggregated data and gender statistics on women’s economic status during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
  2. Sustainable employment and entrepreneurship
    • Preserve women’s jobs and generate new, decent and environmentally sustainable jobs for women including in public and social infrastructure
    • Preserve women’s micro, small, medium enterprises and ensure their sustainability via access to technology, training, markets, innovative institutional finance
  3. Expanded, accessible social safety nets
    • Ensure and sustain robust social assistance (cash/food support) and social insurance programs (pensions/health/unemployment) for vulnerable groups including all women in the informal economy and out of the labor market
    • Provide/extend paid parental leave, childcare facilities or benefits to working parents, especially excluded women, essential service workers, teleworkers, unpaid care workers
    • Invest in gender responsive public/social infrastructure including water, sanitation, energy, transport, care services
  4. Inclusive, quality, sustainable health care systems and gender-based violence services
    • Ensure physical, emotional, socio-economic security for all women health/care workers
    • Provide maternal, sexual/reproductive, and HIV health services, including to the most excluded women, in infection-controlled environments
    • Designate response to violence against women and girls as a long-term essential service
    • Provide prevention and protection services, including reporting, shelters, health, speedy justice to survivors of gender-based violence.