March 08, 2021
COVID-19 could set women’s gains back by decades
By: Accenture UK

COVID-19 has burrowed deep into the cracks in the fabric of society, inflaming social and economic inequalities. Gender inequality has significantly worsened through the pandemic, threatening economic progress around the globe.

The crisis may have added as many as 51 years to the time it will take to reach gender equality, according to an econometric analysis by Accenture Research.

“We risk walking back on what we have actually moved forward on,” International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva says. “We can easily let go if we don’t pay attention. Gender equality doesn’t fall from the sky. It has to be written into policies, and it has to be fought for.”

This International Women’s Day, these warning signs are crucial as we take stock of the pandemic’s toll over the past year.

Women are more likely to work in harder-hit and higher-risk sectors, such as healthcare, social and domestic work, the International Labour Organization (ILO) reports. At the same time, women and girls have borne the brunt of school closures in terms of increased unpaid work and reduced levels of education and “gender-based violence is increasing exponentially,” according to the United Nations (UN) analysis.

An additional 47 million women are expected to be living on less than US$1.90 a day as a result of the pandemic, the UN says.

To better understand the current situation and its likely future impact, Accenture Research surveyed more than 7,000 adults in seven countries in August 2020, to explore the direct and indirect impact of COVID-19 on lives and livelihoods.

The findings confirmed the pandemic consistently impacted women harder in all countries, age groups and economic groups. Findings from the research, include:

  • Women’s earnings have fallen almost two thirds more sharply than men, dropping by 16.5 percent on average since COVID-19 hit, compared with a drop of 10.1 percent for men.

  • Among respondents who had jobs in employment when the pandemic began, 5 percent of the women are now unemployed, compared with just 2.8 percent of the men.

  • Mothers are spending an additional one hour 20 minutes per day on childcare – an increase of 29 percent.

The proportion of women with easy access to healthcare, including maternal and reproductive services, has dropped by more than half – from 69 percent pre-pandemic to just 32 percent.

Half of women say levels of tension and stress in their household are high, up from just 15 percent pre-pandemic.

Forty-two percent of female respondents believe their government has failed to account for the impact of the crisis on women and a further 44 percent believe women will suffer more than men from the economic fallout.

It’s clear – we must act. The danger of doing nothing is the disproportionate impact of the pandemic will only grow, setting back women’s hard-won gains further.

Considering Accenture’s findings, the Women 20 (W20), a non-government advisory council to G20 leaders, last year put forward 10 policy recommendations.

  1. ADVANCEMENT AND LEADERSHIP – Urgently ensure women are represented at all levels of decision-making.
  2. HEALTH – Significantly increase investment in infrastructure to provide —and give equal access to—high-quality healthcare.
  3. EDUCATION – Ensure women and girls have access to education, including online learning and that they can participate in training with special attention to technical and vocational education, e-skills, and lifelong learning opportunities by increasing investment in social infrastructure.
  4. FINANCIAL INCLUSION – Develop, in partnership with public and private financial institutions and banks, innovative and easily accessible digital financial products to increase women’s access to financial services.
  5. LABOUR FORCE INCLUSION – Adopt gender-responsive budgeting informed by gender impact assessments to ensure that pandemic recovery measures create a gender inclusive workforce.
  6. UNPAID WORK – Increase investment in social infrastructure to create jobs and build resilience to provide affordable and quality care for children, dependents, and the elderly.
  7. INCOME PROTECTION – Introduce social and income protection mechanisms for alternative employment models to ensure all workers in the formal and informal economy are covered. Essential workers, part-time workers, the self-employed and vulnerable groups, need special protection.
  8. ENTREPRENEURSHIP – Develop and fund plans to spur women’s participation in entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems by supporting the start-up, scale-up and sustainability of women-owned businesses, particularly in ecommerce and the digital economy.
  9. DIGITAL INCLUSION – Increase women’s and girls’ access to digital technology, especially in remote and rural areas, by investing in infrastructure, high-speed connectivity and skills training.
  10. SEX-DISAGGREGATED DATA – Fund the research and the collection of sex-disaggregated data on the course of the pandemic.

Read more about the work done by Accenture research here.

Copyright © 2021 Accenture. All rights reserved

This document makes descriptive reference to trademarks that may be owned by others. The use of such trademarks herein is not an assertion of ownership of such trademarks by Accenture and is not intended to represent or imply the existence of an association between Accenture and the lawful owners of such trademarks.

Popular Tags

    More blogs on this topic