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Put gender equality at heart of post-COVID economic recovery, says ILO

BusinessToday.In     August 22, 2020

Given that the coronavirus-pandemic has disproportionately affected women workers, the governments should prioritise policies that offset the effects the crisis is having on their jobs, says International Labour Organisation (ILO). The coronavirus lockdown has impacted lakhs of people, but women are the worst hit when it comes to job prospects.

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis large numbers of women were excluded from the labour market, while the pandemic has made things much worse, said Valeria Esquivel, ILO Senior Employment Policies and Gender Officer.

"It is disproportionately affecting women workers who are losing their jobs at a greater speed than men. More women than men work in sectors that have been hard hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic, such as tourism, hospitality and the garment sector. Large numbers of domestic workers, most of whom are women, are also at risk of losing their jobs.  The vast majority of health workers are women, which raises the risk of them catching the virus," Esquivel said.

According to Esquivel, the fragility of women employment situation, coupled with reduced access to labour and social protection have made them vulnerable to the pandemic, even in sectors which, until now, have experienced less disruption.

The ILO, a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) dedicated to improving labour conditions, has suggested five ways to ensure that women's job prospects are not damaged long-term by the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Implementing policies to prevent women from losing their jobs: The agency suggested that the governments should implement policies that keep women in work, as they have a harder time than men in getting back to paid work once crises have past. By compensating for wage losses caused by the temporary reduction in working hours or the suspension of work, these policies can help maintain women workers in their jobs, and safeguard their skills.
  • Help women find new jobs: Public Employment Services (PES), that connect jobseekers with employers, can help women find jobs in essential production and services. At the local level, they can speed up job placement in sectors that are recruiting amidst the pandemic, says the ILO.
  • Avoid cutting health and education subsidies: Expenditure cuts in public services have a disproportionate effect on women and children. That's why it's so important to avoid cuts in health and education budgets, wages and pensions, suggested ILO.
  • Investment in care services: Care services have the potential to generate decent jobs, particularly for women. This crisis has highlighted the often difficult and undervalued work of care workers, whose contribution has been, and remains, essential to overcoming the pandemic. Improving their working conditions will have a significant impact on many women workers, given the large numbers who work in the care sector, said ILO.
  • Promote employment policies that focus on women: The governments need to pro-actively counterbalance the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on women. From a broader perspective, macroeconomic stimulus packages must continue to support and create jobs for women. Policies should focus on hard-hit sectors that employ large numbers of women, along with measures that help close women's skill gaps and contribute to removing practical barriers to entry, says ILO.

By Chitranjan Kumar

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