Gender inequality in the aftermath of COVID-19
Kim Catechis and Jen Mair, Chair of our Investment Executive and Head of Governance, Legal and Company Secretarial discuss the issue of gender inequality and how it is getting exacerbated by COVID-19 in the both developed and developing world .
Many of the job losses from the pandemic have been born predominantly by women, even though women represent less than half the work force.
Kim: Welcome back to another instalment of the AFTERMATH. Today we are talking gender inequality and with me I have Jennifer Mair, who is Chair of our Investment Executive. Jen, really good to see you.
Jen: Great to see you too Kim, really good to see you.
Kim: So, Jen, in my work with AFTERMATH, I’ve obviously been looking at the issue of inequality and how it gets exacerbated by COVID-19. Now a lot of the stuff that you read about already and everybody is well aware of, is limited really to the issue of poor countries and poorer people within countries bearing the brunt of it, this is definitely not an equal opportunities pandemic.
The area that I worry a little bit about because I think it’s not necessarily that well covered, is the, slippage that we are seeing in gender equality. You know in developed world, we’ve got legislation that backs up, you know, gender equality for women in the workplace or even in society. In developed countries it’s slightly more complex because the progress that has been made, I think, is more at risk. How do you see it?
Jen: I agree, while there has been a lot of focus on inequality, generally, the question of gender inequality is one that has significant ramifications. It is thought that many of the job losses that we have seen so far through the pandemic have been born predominantly by women, even though women represent less than half the work force, so it’s interesting to look at the reasons for this. One is a long-standing reason of automation of the economy, and obviously this has been a factor for many years, but COVID has only accelerated this. So areas of the economy in retail, hospitality, and clerical administrative areas which have been ready for automation have moved faster and resulted in job losses for women.
Besides that, there is obviously the issues of struggling through the effects of the pandemic and responding to the care giving responsibilities that it’s thrown up. Women, it’s thought, have worn a heavy proportion of those responsibilities, which has impacted their employment prospects.
Kim: So, I was just wondering, you know, when we think about these things, I think we can’t avoid doing a split between a developed world and emerging, and the developing countries have an extra kind of structural challenge in that, you know, over the last, 10,15, 20 years there's been a lot of progress made in terms of encouraging kids of both sexes to actually continue staying at school, to finish secondary at least you know etc. and a lot of these countries, and that’s fine as long as the economic times are positive. When household finances are under stress, I dare say a lot of these kids, you know, their families are going to think their education is no longer imperative, survival is and as a result, many particularly these young girls are likely to be taken out of school, married off, they will have children and effectively what you're doing is making them miss out on, what you could arguably say, relatively limited opportunities set in the first place. And if nothing is done to help cushion this, and of course these countries are poor so there is limited things that they can do, then I worry that prospects for girls and women are going to be taking another generation, to get back to this place.
Jen: I think, that's what we are seeing Kim, and there is cultural reasons for that, you know families are struggling under the onslaught, the health and economic impacts of COVID, and they’re going back to basics, education is being thrown out the window and it’s a struggle for survival.
It’s generally viewed, or often viewed, that boys have got higher prospects in the working environment in developing countries so they are sent out to work, or given the opportunity for education over girls, and it’s the girls education and life prospects thereby effected and they are sent off to be married early, for example, as you say. And so, as you say it’s a whole generation that is affected by that.
The policies that are no longer available encouraging women and girls to seek employment, those are being scrapped and not receiving the economic support that would be available in better times. So it’s really going back to basics and reversing a lot of the good changes that we have seen over the last years.
Kim: Jennifer thanks, I’ve really enjoyed this, and I think it’s been illuminating.
And, thank you all for tuning in and come back next week, we will have something completely different.
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