Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde during a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, at Palacio de Viana in Madrid, Spain on July 7, 2020.
Europa Press News | Getty Images
LONDON – Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said the coronavirus pandemic had practically triggered a recession for women and girls.
At the virtual Davos Agenda summit earlier this week, Linde said the economic downturn caused by the pandemic had “specific effects” on women. Their comments came via videoconferencing during a panel discussion entitled, “Putting Gender Equality at the Center of Recovery.”
According to Linde, this was due to the fact that women generally had a less secure position in the labor market because they did informal work and had more responsibility for unpaid care work. She also highlighted the social problem of increasing violence against women during the pandemic.
“All of these things pose a serious threat to gender equality and I would even say we have a recession for women and girls,” Linde said.
A report by the United Nations International Labor Organization published in June found that 510 million, or 40% of all employed women worldwide worked in the four sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus, up from 36.6% of men.
A separate report by UN Women released in November found that by the end of the second quarter of 2020 there were 1.7 times as many women as men outside the labor market – 321 million women versus 182 million men.
“Unfortunately, the gender perspective is often the first thing that is neglected in crisis response situations,” said Linde, reflecting on her previous work in the Swedish Ministry of Justice.
Indeed, the UN Women’s Report found that 206 countries and territories at that point had put in place a total of 1,813 measures to combat the economic and social consequences of Covid-19, but had only taken 85 measures to strengthen the economic security of women and only 8% of the measures directly related to unpaid care work.
Gender diversity “not optional”
In a second panel on the same topic, Kevin Sneader, global managing partner of management consultancy McKinsey & Company, highlighted that four-fifths of the 1.1 million people who left the US in September alone were women.
Meanwhile, he said up to a quarter of women in developed countries are considering leaving their current jobs amid the pandemic.
Sneader said McKinsey & Company found in its most recent analysis that “flexibility” was the single most important factor people look for in order to make progress on gender equality.
He argued that, given the current challenges of the crisis, it is “good business” for companies to invest in equality.
“It’s not optional,” he continued. “The idea that now is the right time to withdraw and prioritize other things, I think, is just wrong.”