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Women in Work Index 2021

The impact of COVID-19 on women in work


The pace of progress towards gender equality across the OECD remains slow. And COVID-19 threatens to reverse the important gains that have been made in the last decade, as the negative impacts of the pandemic are disproportionately being felt by women.

If nothing is done to directly address the impact of the pandemic on women or to tackle pre-existing gender inequalities in care, more women will leave the workforce permanently. The damage could take years to repair. Our analysis finds that even at double the rate of historical progress, the OECD will not catch up to its pre-pandemic equality growth path until 2030.

There is a huge prize to be gained from accelerating progress: our Index shows increasing female employment rates across the OECD could boost OECD Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by US$6 trillion, while closing the gender pay gap could boost OECD GDP by US$2 trillion.

Ł48bn Annual boost to the UK economy from increasing the proportion of women in work.

How is COVID-19 affecting women in work?

Women’s jobs are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 because of existing gender inequalities in society, and the disruptive impact of the pandemic on service sectors with high levels of female employment.

The unemployment rate rose across the OECD in 2020, with women losing their jobs at a faster rate than men.

COVID-19 is also amplifying the unequal burden of unpaid care and domestic work carried by women. Caring responsibilities have already caused more women than men to exit the workforce. The longer this higher care burden on women lasts, the more likely women are to leave the labour market permanently - not only reversing progress towards gender equality, but also stunting economic growth.

Graph: Share of furloughed jobs vs share of female workers by industry in the UK, October 2020

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Ülker Day

Ülker Day

People and Organisation, Partner, PwC Turkey

Tel: +90 212 326 6369

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