COVID-19, existing law hinder women's economic opportunities worldwide: World Bank

Doaa A.Moneim , Wednesday 24 Feb 2021

According to the report, reforms to overcome obstacles to women’s economic inclusion have been slow in many regions and uneven within them

World Bank
world Bank. REUTERS

The COVID-19 crisis and its related socio-economic impacts, as well as the existing legislations, have negatively affected women’s economic opportunities worldwide, reinforcing gender inequality globally, according to a new report released by the World Bank on Tuesday.

The report said that the pandemic has created new challenges to women’s health, safety, and economic security.

The report measured the laws and regulations across 8 areas that affect women’s economic opportunities in 190 countries, covering the period from September 2019-October 2020.

According to the report, reforms to overcome obstacles to women’s economic inclusion have been slow in many regions and uneven within them.

“On average, women have just threequarters of the legal rights afforded to men, while they were already at a disadvantage before the pandemic, and government initiatives to buffer some of its effects have been limited in many countries”, said the report.

“Women need to be fully included in economies in order to achieve better development outcomes. Despite progress in many countries, there have been troubling reversals in a few, including restricting women’s travel without the permission of a male guardian. This pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities that disadvantage girls and women, including barriers to attend school and maintain jobs”, said David Malpass, the President of the World Bank Group.

He also noted that women are also facing a rise in domestic violence and health and safety challenges, adding that women should have the same access to finance and the same rights to inheritance as men, and must be at the center of all efforts toward an inclusive and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report found that many governments have put into effect measures to address some of the impacts of the pandemic on working women, and nearly an additional 40 economies globally have introduced leave or benefit policies to help parents with childcare in light of schools’ closure.

Yet, these measures are likely insufficient to address the challenges many working mothers already face, or the childcare crisis, as the report found.

It also added that the pandemic has also contributed to a rise in both the severity and frequency of gender-based violence.

“Preliminary research shows that since early 2020, governments introduced about 120 new measures, including hotlines, psychological assistance, and shelters to protect women from violence. Some governments also took steps to provide access to justice in several ways, including declaring family cases urgent during lockdown, and allowing remote court proceedings for family matters”, according to the report.

Despite that, governments still have room to adopt measures and policies aimed at addressing the root causes of this violence, according to the report.

The report cited that 27 economies in all regions and income groups enacted reforms across all areas and rose good practices in legislation in 45 cases during the year covered, the report found, but the greatest number of reforms introduced or amended are laws affecting pay and parenthood.

Dealing with the current situation, the report called for a concerted effort by governments, civil society, and international organisations, among others, to be adopted in order to achieve gender equality.

It also urges all countries to apply legal and regulatory reforms to improve the lives of women, as well as their families and communities, and to narrow the gender gap in development outcomes, increase female labor force participation, lower vulnerable employment, and attain greater representation of women in national parliaments, according to the report.

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