UN Women have published a feminist plan for economic recovery and transformation learning from the COVID-19 pandemic and previous crises: “Beyond COVID-19: A Feminist Plan for Sustainability and Social Justice.”
As the world faces the choice between doubling down on the mistakes of the past or seizing the opportunity to do things differently, in the first UN plan of its kind, the new flagship report draws on the latest data, analysis and input from more than 100 global experts to provide a vision and concrete pathways for putting gender equality, environmental sustainability and social justice at the centre of global development efforts.
The report details how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated preexisting gender inequalities and laid bare weaknesses in the already fragile global care economy. Globally, in 2019 and 2020, women lost 54 million jobs, and even before the pandemic, they took on three times as much unpaid care work as men. Women are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation while also being left out of decision-making around policy and financing to address climate change. By the end of 2021, men’s jobs will have recovered, but there will still be 13 million fewer women in employment.
This trio of interconnected crises of jobs, care and climate systematically undermine gender equality and threaten the survival of people and planet, but there is still an opportunity to change course.
“The need for a new social contract that delivers sustainability and social justice for all has never been clearer. We have a generational opportunity to break the vicious cycle of economic insecurity, environmental destruction and exclusionary politics and shape a better, more gender-equal and sustainable world. Today’s report provides a roadmap for how to do this, while recovering the ground that’s been lost on gender equality and women’s rights,” said Pramila Patten, Executive Director a.i.
To address these intersecting crises, UN Women is calling for better policy, action and investment, including:
- Investing in the care economy and social infrastructure such as the expansion of quality care services to create jobs and increase support for unpaid caregivers, as countries such as Canada and Argentina have done. Public investments in care services could create 40-60 per cent more jobs, than the same investments in construction. In countries like Brazil and South Africa cash transfers for informal workers, specifically targeting women, were implemented following the pandemic.
- Harnessing the potential of the transition to environmental sustainability, which could create up to 24 million new green jobs, in areas such as renewable energy. Women should have the opportunity to access their fair share of these opportunities including by getting the necessary training and skills.
- Promoting women’s leadership across institutional spaces: from governments to civil society and the private sector, and especially in crisis response. Despite having been on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, making up 70 per cent of health care workers globally, women currently hold only 24 per cent of seats on COVID-19 taskforces that have coordinated the policy response around the world.
- Increasing funding for women’s organizations. Despite their critical roles as watchdogs and providing a social safety net in communities, women’s organizations are woefully under-funded. In 2018-19, women’s rights organizations received only 1 per cent of all OECD-DAC aid allocated to gender equality, amounting to only a tiny fraction of total aid.
To finance these measures, transformative macroeconomic policies – including progressive taxes and, especially for low-income countries, global cooperation and debt relief – are urgently needed. Equally important will be to achieve a shift in power relations to amplify the voices of historically excluded groups and ensure effective gender mainstreaming.