Oxfam: Covid-19 cost women more than €650 billion in lost income
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Oxfam: Covid-19 cost women more than €650 billion in lost income

Unemployed domestic worker, Rasu Begum, from Dhaka in Bangladesh. © Fabeha Monir for Oxfam

Women across the world lost at least $800 billion (about €665bn) in income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report by the charity Oxfam.

One of the reasons for the cut – equivalent to the entire GDP of 98 countries – was the loss of jobs. While men suffered a 3.9% cut in jobs, for women the cut was 5%, or the equivalent of 64 million jobs.

“Economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic is having a harsher impact on women, who are disproportionately represented in sectors offering low wages, few benefits and the least secure jobs,” said Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International.

Instead of righting that wrong, governments treated women’s jobs as dispensable —and that has come at a cost of at least $800 billion in lost wages for those in formal employment,” she said.

And the estimated total does not include the wages of women in informal employment, such as domestic workers, market vendors and women in the garment industry, who have seen their wages cut or gone entirely as they were simply sent home.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the informal economy – jobs that come with no contract, no benefits and no assurance of employment, but also no taxation or declaration of income – accounts for some 1.6 billion jobs across the world.

Those people were particularly hard hit by the economic effects of pandemic and lockdown, the ILO says, with a decline in earnings of 60% globally, with Africa and Latin America suffering losses of up to 81%.

In addition, the rate of relative poverty – the proportion of workers whose monthly income is below 50% of the median in the local population – is expected to rise by 34% for informal workers in general, ranging from 21 percentage in countries with higher pay, to 50 percentage points in low-paid countries.

Unemployed women in Dhaka line up at a food bank
© Fabeha Monir for Oxfam

Oxfam also offers a striking comparison: while women across the world were losing $800 billion in income, a company like Amazon added $700 billion to its market value. And the United States spent $721.5 billion on military spending.

The effects of these dramatic changes will be unevenly felt for years to come,” Oxfam concludes. “An additional 47 million women worldwide are expected to fall into extreme poverty, living on less than $1.90 a day in 2021. In the US, one in six women of colour are facing food insecurity because of the pandemic. According to the World Economic Forum, closing the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years due to negative outcomes for women in 2020.”