G20 leaders have an opportunity to develop policy responses to the pandemic that immediately address women’s roles in healthcare, unpaid care and the workforce.

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Amidst a COVID-19 pandemic that is expected to cause an unprecedented global economic downturn, UN Women, the UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, and Women 20 (W20), the official G20 engagement group on women, have called on G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to put women at the heart of recovery efforts. In a joint statement, both groups called on addressing women’s distinct economic roles, contributions and constraints, and seizing the opportunity to put women at the centre of investment design to realise sustainable recovery.

Women contribute 37% of the global GDP. Moreover, all types of women’s care work, including unpaid work, generate $11 trillion globally (nine per cent of global GDP). Enabling women’s potential fully and equally with men promotes sustainable, balanced, inclusive growth, improves the representation of women within institutions and inter-generational development outcomes, and is also crisis-cushioning.

Already encumbered by gendered labour-market disadvantages, women workers have been disproportionately affected by job loss, reduced working hours and bankruptcy due to the current pandemic. Also, health risks to health workers, paid and unpaid care work and violence against women have escalated with COVID-19 and lockdowns.

G20 economies have introduced a firepower support package of $8 trillion to cushion households and businesses and facilitate recovery. Despite evidence that the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 are worse for women, it is unclear how much the sizeable G20 (or non-G20) economic packages have invested in women.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women said: “Women are drivers of economic recovery and resilience. G20’s sizeable investments in response to COVID-19 and beyond must be intentional about this and be designed with women at their centre in order to realise sustainable rebuilding.”

Dr. Thoraya Obaid, Women 20 Chair added: “While we work to recover from the damage caused by this global crisis, we have an opportunity to correct a historical fault regarding women and their role in the society. G20 leaders must grasp this opportunity to enable women’s potential fully and equally with men – this is critical to economic recovery now and for future crisis-cushioning.”

In their joint statement, UN Women and W20 called on G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to implement gender-responsive impact reviews of the crisis, recovery packages and plans worldwide, especially for the worst-affected women and girls, in order to guide investment priorities. They also appealed for greater fiscal space for countries of the Global South, including through debt relief or cancellation, and expansionary monetary policies that enhance credit availability for women-specific sectors via loan guarantees and other loan instruments as well as greater investment in gender-responsive budgeting.

The organisations also urge G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to promote inclusive governance and decision-making, sustainable employment and entrepreneurship, expanded, accessible social safety nets and inclusive, quality, sustainable health care systems and gender-based violence services.

UN Women and W20 concluded, G20 leaders have an opportunity to develop policy responses to the pandemic that immediately address women’s roles in healthcare, unpaid care and the workforce.

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