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World Bank report shows effect of COVID-19 pandemic on women in region


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World Bank report shows effect of COVID-19 pandemic on women in region

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Washington – A new World Bank report has found that working women in Latin America and the Caribbean are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic compared to men.

“This fact underscores the need for the countries of the region to adopt measures to prevent the widening of the gender gap in the labour market, which persists despite decades of progress,” said the Washington-based financial institution in a statement on Thursday.

The report says women’s participation in the labour market rose from 41 per cent in 1990 to 53 per cent in 2019, “a significant upward trend that is at risk of reversing in the current context.”

“Women tend to have a more fragile employment situation than men, with jobs in the informal sector, in tasks that require more face-to-face interaction and less remote work, such as trade, personal care or tourism,” said Ximena Del Carpio, World Bank Practice Manager for the Poverty and Equity Practice Group for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“In times of crisis, these workers are much more vulnerable to changes in the labour market.”

According to the policy note, “The Gendered Impacts of COVID-19 on Labour Markets in Latin America and the Caribbean,” prepared by the World Bank’s Gender Innovation Lab (LACGIL), at the onset of the pandemic, women were 44 per cent more likely than men to lose their jobs temporarily or permanently (56 per cent chance for women, 39 per cent for men).

The report says that this gap remained virtually unchanged at around 15 per cent once temporarily unemployed workers began to return to their jobs.

However, the report underscores that permanent job loss affected one in five women.

The report says not all countries were affected equally. At the onset of the pandemic crisis, Honduras and Costa Rica had the highest gender gaps, where women were 25 per centage points more likely than men to be unemployed, the report says.

It says Bolivia and Peru exhibited the smallest differences at the regional level, at 10 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively.

The report indicates that 56 per cent of the job losses during the crisis were concentrated in trade, personal services, education, and hotels and restaurants.

Those are four of the five most highly female-intensive sectors, employing 60 per cent of female workers before the pandemic, the report says, suggesting that a growing gap in the labour market, with potential effects on women’s empowerment, exacerbating intrahousehold imbalances and domestic violence.

The World Bank said the study conducted three rounds of telephone surveys in 13 countries of the region between May and August 2020, with 13 152 observations.

The surveys focused on the employment situation of men and women during the pandemic and changes in household income and access to services, among other aspects.

Based on the findings, the report offers public policy recommendations to reverse the negative impacts of the pandemic on women’s labour market participation and to ensure an inclusive recovery.

The report says immediate public policy responses should incorporate the gender perspective, and create the conditions and incentives for women to work.

The public policy responses should also include programs to help women most affected by the crisis and those without access to social protection coverage, the report recommends.

Additionally, it recommends that public policy responses should support self-employment, promote training and job placement programs, and provide incentives for the formalization of female workers. (CMC)