The COVID-19 crisis will dramatically increase the poverty rate for women and widen the gap between men and women who live in poverty, according to new data released today by UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The poverty rate for women was expected to decrease by 2.7 per cent between 2019 and 2021, but projections now point to an increase of 9.1 per cent due to the pandemic and its fallout. The projections, commissioned by UN Women and UNDP, and carried out by the Pardee Centre for International Futures at the University of Denver, show that while the pandemic will impact global poverty generally, women will be disproportionately affected, especially women of reproductive age. By 2021, for every 100 men aged 25 to 34 living in extreme poverty (living on 1.90 USD a day or less), there will be 118 women, a gap that is expected to increase to 121 women per 100 men by 2030.
It is a known fact that women all over the world are paid less than men for the same amount of work. The US women’s Football Team fighting for equal pay or for that matter the Women’s Tennis Players fight for equal prize money are some of the most publicized struggles that women face on a daily basis to get their rightly deserved basic rights.
This issue gets magnified when developing regions are considered. According to Oxfam, 75 per cent of women in developing regions are in the informal economy – where they are less likely to have employment contracts, legal rights or social protection, and are often not paid enough to escape poverty. 600 million are in the most insecure and precarious forms of work. And the issue does not end here.
Women are expected to do unpaid care work on top of the jobs they are already doing. The patriarchal society considers that childcare and housework is a basic duty of women and obviously they don’t need to be paid for this job. The world owes $10.8 trillion dollars to women for unpaid care work and this number has increased by a substantial amount due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19.
“The increases in women’s extreme poverty, in particular at these two stages of their lives, are a stark indictment of deep flaws in the ways we have constructed our societies and economies,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Women and girls living in poverty are more vulnerable to exploitation, sexual as well as mental. On top of this, they don’t have a choice to walk out of the relationship because they lack resources, income and acceptance from the society. Steps need to be taken to ensure that the COVID-19 crisis does not become another event in which women have to bear the brunt and add to their suffering.
According to this study by UNDP, it would take just 0.14 per cent of global GDP or about 2 trillion US Dollars to lift the world out of extreme poverty by 2030; and US$48 billion to close the gender poverty gap. These measures may not be enough but they will go a long way in ending the prolonged suffering of women and poor women in particular. People need to realize that the growth of women is the only way the world economy can grow sustainably.