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Women groups want G20 members to recognise women as drivers of economic recovery

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While the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to cause an unprecedented global economic downturn, UN Women, the UN arm committed to gender equality and the empowerment of women, and Women 20 (W20), the official G20 engagement group on women, have called on G20 finance ministers and central bank governors to put women at the heart of recovery efforts.

Both groups, in a joint statement, called on addressing women’s distinct economic roles, contributions and constraints, and seizing the opportunity to put women at the centre of investments designed to realize sustainable recovery.

An estimated 527 million women work in the four hardesthit sectors—accommodation and food services, real estate, business and administrative activities, manufacturing, and wholesale/retail trade, unsuitable for remote-working.

This represents 41 percent of total female employment visà-vis 35 percent of total male employment.

Women comprise 70 percent of the global health workforce, at the front lines of response.

They also contribute 37 percent of the global GDP. In addition, all types of women’s care work, including unpaid work, generate USD 11 trillion globally (9 percent of global GDP).

Hence, they emphasised that 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 crisis-cushioning.

According to the groups, already encumbered by gendered labour-market disadvantages, women workers have been disproportionately affected by job loss, reduced working hours and bankruptcy due to the current pandemic.

COVID-19 lockdowns have also escalated health risks to health workers, paid and unpaid care work, and violence against women.

G20 economies introduced a firepower support package of USD 8 trillion to cushion households and businesses and facilitate recovery, but it is unclear how much the sizeable G20 (or non-g20) economic packages have invested in women, despite evidence that the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 are worse for women.

“While we work to recover from the damage caused by this global crisis, we have an opportunity to correct a historical fault regarding women and their role in society. G20 leaders must grasp this opportunity to enable women’s potential fully and equally with men – this is critical to economic recovery now and for future crisis-cushioning,” Thoraya Obaid, chairperson, Women 20.

Together, UN Women and W20 called on G20 finance ministers and central bank governors to implement genderresponsive impact reviews of the crisis, recovery packages and plans worldwide, especially for the worst-affected women and girls, in order to guide investment priorities.

They also asked for greater fiscal space for countries of the Global South, including through debt relief or cancellation, and expansionary monetary policies that enhance credit availability for women-specific sectors via loan guarantees and other loan instruments as well as greater investment in gender-responsive budgeting.

The organisations further urge G20 finance ministers and central bank governors to promote inclusive governance and decision-making, sustainable employment and entrepreneurship, expanded, accessible social safety nets and inclusive, quality, sustainable health care systems and gender-based violence services.

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