COVID-19 Recovery: Recognizing Women’s Paid and Unpaid Work
Please join the Wilson Center’s Maternal Health Initiative, in collaboration with EMD Serono, the healthcare business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, for a panel discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on women’s economic and health security. This public convening of global experts will focus on best practices, innovative solutions, and supportive policies to ensure women have equitable opportunity to financial success, health and safety while at work, and that caregiving is finally front and center in policy discussions. The insights and solutions from this event will be used to inform our upcoming whitepaper, The Lasting Effects of COVID-19 on Women’s Health and Economic Participation.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating and lasting effects on women’s paid and unpaid work, as well as their health and safety. Globally, women have lost paid work, increased unpaid care work, and risked their own health and well-being as frontline health workers. Women’s health is essential to building and sustaining healthy economies; and as we work to rebuild, the needs of women must be central to any strategic recovery. Without action, COVID-19 is poised to have devastating and long-term impacts on women’s health and economic standing and, by extension, on the health of societies and economies as a whole. Interventions to improve women’s health and status in the workforce must take an intersectional approach to include and address the needs of diverse populations like migrant women, Black, Indigenous, and other women of color, and LGBTQ+ people globally.
In collaboration with EMD Serono, the healthcare business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, the Wilson Center’s Maternal Health Initiative, hosted a panel discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on women’s economic and health security. This public convening of global experts focused on best practices, innovative solutions, and supportive policies to ensure women have equitable opportunity to financial success, health and safety while at work, and that caregiving is finally front and center in policy discussions. The insights and solutions from this event will be used to inform our upcoming whitepaper, The Lasting Effects of COVID-19 on Women’s Health and Economic Participation.
Lara Ayoub, Co-founder, SADAQA, Jordan; Communications Specialist for Arab States, United Nations Development Coordination Office
“As we are all familiar and as this global pandemic showed, these structural barriers [to keeping women in the workforce] still include lack of daycares, access to safe public transportation, and unequal pay. A bit about Jordan's landscape, we have sadly one of the lowest economic participation of women in the world and it stands at a very stubborn 14%, a number that hasn’t nudged in the last 10 years despite all the efforts on the ground to find that tipping point. 78% of women have a university degree and unemployment is on the rise especially among married women with children, and this is where the heart of the problem lies. Statistics show that women tend to exit their career when they get married around the age of 29 and 34% of women leave the workforce when they have a second child.”
“In Jordan, and since COVID hit, 20,000 women in Jordan lost their jobs alongside the 115 million people all over the world that lost their jobs according to the ILO Monitor (International Labor Organization). Our attention has been heavily focused on the social protection of daycare owners and caregivers as we believe the care sector is a backbone for employment and employability for women and should continue to be a national priority, and this dialogue today will grant us the opportunity to exchange knowledge and best practices and grow together to combat each other’s challenges within our countries.”
“Every country should, or every civil society organization or any advocate or activist, should focus or work towards increasing or putting the responsibility on the state to increase the budget or put it on the national agenda. Care economy equals this much amount because in cases like the pandemic, we are still suffering and some sectors will vanish because they were not protected through social justice or social protection.”
Katrina Fotovat, Senior Official, Office of Global Women’s Issues, Department of State
“We've seen certainly what I call ‘propportunities’ from this pandemic of changing the way we work and closing workforce gender gaps which would add between 12 and 24 trillion dollars in global GDP. So I think also a critical part of addressing this and that part of the gap is to work to address all the uniquely gendered barriers, so that includes advancing women's leadership, addressing the caregiving crisis as we have all talked about, addressing gender-based violence issues, and ensuring high-paying quality jobs. Most of us recognize these issues are interrelated and in order for women to advance in the workforce and assume these leadership positions in all aspects of society we really must address the issue of women in the workforce and the care economy.”
“In the United States alone an alarming number of women almost three million women, have exited the labor market and they've been forced to choose between employment and providing adequate care for loved ones. Vice President Harris calls this trend ‘the national emergency’ and it increases unpaid care which is concerning for families with young children from underserved communities where mothers are more likely to be sole or primary breadwinners, and they may face financial hardships for years to come. So this has really knocked women back in so many ways, and the economic value of unpaid care work is substantial and important for every economy in the world to address.”
“You can't have pandemic recovery if you don't have paid sick leave because you are putting people at risk, people will have to feed themselves, you can’t actually even take time off to recover, you can't take care of sick loved ones. It makes sense and is the most effective way not only to deal with the economy but also to create stability and recover from a global pandemic. I think across the globe we have seen how vital this is just to make sure that people can take that opportunity to heal. You know the moment that you need support the most is when you are ill or a loved one is ill and in order for the global economy to continue and not falter…this is the best way to run it.”
Jasmine Greenamyer, Head, Global Strategic Partnerships, Global Healthcare Government & Public Affairs, EMD Serono
“Often [COVID-19 recovery] is framed around what governments can do. While they absolutely do have a critical and crucial role, we believe that the private sector should not forget they also have an important role to play. While the private sector can't create public policy, we can create impactful policies for our employees and if this is done at the mass level we can significantly improve the lives of women who are so often disproportionately impacted by these economic events that we've recently seen.”
“We really strongly believe in public-private partnerships—that they're an essential form and a collaboration between the sectors and bringing together resources and expertise that would otherwise be missing if we're working just in silos. While the governments need the buy in of the private sector to enact these sweeping changes we need, I think conversely governments need to think about policies that incentivize the private sector to actively support women and family caregivers. This is often an area where government's and employers need to work jointly to create these policies to protect these often economic vulnerable segments of the workforce.”
“To help women's paid work, we need to look at supporting their unpaid work. I think when it comes to unpaid care there's a lot of ways the private sector can create and foster a more equitable work environment for women to rise and thrive in the workplace…it starts with supportive policies.”
C. Nicole Mason, President and CEO, Institute for Women’s Policy Research
“At the beginning of 2020 we [hit] a significant milestone, women were more than 50% of the workforce. By March of that same year all of those gains had been wiped out. What the pandemic did was bring into focus not only women's disproportionate concentration in the hardest hit sectors, but the role of care work and women's unpaid and invisible labor and contribution not only to the economy but to families. It also served to highlight our broken care infrastructure. During the pandemic women were forced out of the work force when schools were slated to open in September of 2020, we thought, myself included, that schools would be reopened. 865,000 women fell out of the work force mainly due to the inability to juggle both their full time work and also care taker responsibilities for both children and aging parents.”
"If women were paid minimum wage in the U.S. for their unpaid labor, care taking responsibilities, and house work it would contribute 1.5 trillion dollars to the economy… and 10.9 trillion dollars globally. “That is a lot of unpaid, invisible labor that we don't account for in our GDP but we know makes a difference in terms of women's ability to participate fully in the workforce and sustain employment.”
“Things have changed, we're not going back. We know that flexibility works and we know that flexibility matters to women and families, and so how can companies be responsive? People have been talking about it as the great ‘resignation’ where four million workers have left the workforce, but we've been framing it here at IWPR (Institute for Women's policy Research) as the great ‘renegotiation’ where we're really thinking, workers are really thinking, about what would make work work for them.”
“When I talk about the impact of the pandemic on the informal economy, we have to understand that women who are employed in the informal economy whether they are providing day care to families and getting paid under the table, or domestic services like cleaning homes, when families or women lose income at this level it directly impacts this sector of workers, the informal sector, but the people who are concentrated in those sectors also are not able to tap into programs social safety net programs like unemployment insurance and so it’s even more devastating and I have to say because of the informality…we don't count it. I think that the economic impact of the pandemic is even bigger than we know.”
C. Nicole Mason
Maternal Health Initiative
Life and health are the most basic human rights, yet disparities between and within countries continue to grow. No single solution or institution can address the variety of health concerns the world faces. By leveraging, building on, and coordinating the Wilson Center’s strong regional and cross-cutting programming, the Maternal Health Initiative (MHI) promotes dialogue and understanding among practitioners, scholars, community leaders, and policymakers. Read more
Middle East Women's Initiative
The Middle East Women's Initiative (MEWI) promotes the empowerment of women in the region through an open and inclusive dialogue with women leaders from the Middle East and continuous research. Read more