COVID-19 TO INCREASE POVERTY RATE FOR WOMEN, ERODING DECADES OF PROGRESS: UN

The report, “From Insights to Action: Gender Equality in the wake of COVID-19”, published by UN, said that the gender poverty gap will worsen further still in South Asia hit in few specific sectors. The UN Women and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) reported that the COVID-19 pandemic will disproportionately affect women and push 47 million more women and girls into extreme poverty by 2021, altering decades of development to lift this demographic above the poverty line. It stated that the poverty rate for women will increase to a 9.1 per cent, which was expected to reduce by 2.7% in between 2019 and 2020.
The crisis has affected both men and women in several aspects, however women have been hard in numerous specific areas. The projection pointed that overall women’s employment is 19% more at risk than men. During the pandemic, women have lost their jobs at a faster rate than men have, as they are more likely to be employed in the sectors hardest hit by long lockdowns such as retail, restaurants and hotels, it said. The employment of women in the informal economy is large, typically in jobs such as daily wage earners, food services, domestic workers and cleaners which comes with little or no healthcare, unemployment benefits or other social protection schemes, thus making the employment scenario much bleaker for females.
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said that, the increases in women’s extreme poverty are a stark indictment of deep flaws in the ways we have constructed our societies and economies and thus it requires constructive policies to address the critical aspects of gender inequality. The projections show that while the pandemic will impact global poverty generally women will be adversely affected, especially women of reproductive age. By 2021, for every 100 men aged 25 to 34 living in extreme poverty (living on USD 1.990 a day or less), there will be 118 women, a gap that is expected to increase to 121 women per 100 men by 2030.
In South Asia, on an average, nearly 31.7 percent of the total population (around 433 million) is living in abject poverty in the various countries of the region. In all the countries of the region there is a concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few which worsened during the pandemic. The pre pandemic poverty ratio if female in South Asia for 2021 was expected to be around 10% which is now recorded to rise up to 13%. The report said that Central and Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (where 87 per cent of the world’s extreme poor live) will see the largest increases in extreme poverty, with an additional 54 million and 24 million people, respectively, living below the international poverty line as an outcome of the pandemic.
The concerns regarding the rise in extreme poverty is narrowed down only to the idea of downturn in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the countries, however aspects of women unemployment which might affect the sex distribution of poverty is kept aside. Thus, in order to reverse the impact of the pandemic on poverty, it is essential to invest in policies aimed at reducing gender inequality. Extensive research on the gendered impact of the pandemic should be used in formulating comprehensive plans to address occupational segregation and economic packages for vulnerable women to ensure social and economic protection.

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