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Jobs for women in rural India affected by COVID-19 pandemic

Since June 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down in India yet business has been restarting slowly. Recent studies show that women from low-income households in India were disproportionately impacted by the crisis. According to the UN, women are bearing the brunt of the economic and social fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic pushed women out

Wage inequality and the burden of unpaid care has pushed more women out of employment and into poverty. Women’s earned income in India was just one-fifth that of men’s even before the pandemic. Globally, and in India, more women have lost jobs during COVID-19. A recent report by the Center for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University shows that during the first lockdown in 2020, only 7% of men lost their jobs, compared to 47% of women who lost their jobs and did not return to work by the end of the year. In the informal sector, women fared even worse. Between March and April 2021, rural Indian women in informal jobs accounted for 80% of job losses.
In 2020 international nonprofit organisation Women on Wings reported a total of 2,84,800 jobs co-created with its business partners, measured per 31 March 2020. By April 2020, the whole world had come to a standstill because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After a three-month lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, India endured a second wave of COVID-19 infections in April and May in 2021. Says Ronald van het Hof, joint managing director at Women on Wings, “Although there are still many uncertainties now with that new Omicron strain, we feel it is important to be transparent to our stakeholders and disclose the number of jobs per September 30, 2021. After assimilation of the reports gathered from the majority of our business partners, we estimate total job loss to the tune of 20,000 to 25,000 jobs.”

Partial recovery

After a sharp contraction in GDP, the economy is expected to recover gradually. The economic outlook remains clouded due to pandemic-related uncertainties. Women on Wings’ business partners are aiming to regain pre COVID-19 revenue position in the coming year.
The socio-economic toll on women and girls have long-term consequences, unless policies and actions deliberately target and invest in women. There is a risk that the exodus of women from the workforce could become permanent, reversing not only gender equality gains, but GDP gains. UN Women data also shows that more girls than boys were left out of school during the pandemic and 65% of parents surveyed were reluctant to continue the education of girls and resorting to child marriages to save costs. This can create an entire generation of young women without education and employment opportunities.
Every crisis impacts women and girls differently than men, because of existing gender norms and inequalities. To build back better and equal from the COVID-19 crisis, policy, investment and action must be shaped by women and girls and deliberately target them.