The Pandemic’s Childcare Crisis Is Pushing Women to the Brink of Poverty: Report
The childcare crisis brought on by the pandemic has reached a “tipping point” that, if passed, could set back women’s economic progress toward parity by decades, a new global report warns.
Women, as the primary consumers of and paid workers in childcare services, face the economic consequences of a decimated sector. As demand for paid childcare has bottomed out amid lockdowns and fear of contagion, women workers have lost income; meanwhile, an exodus of working mothers from the workforce in order to provide unpaid care for their children has seen women losing income on a much wider scale.
On average, the report concludes, women are spending 30+ hours each week on unpaid childcare — nearly the equivalent of a standard full-time job.
“Childcare forms the backbone of households, economies, and societies across the globe: it boosts employment, protects family incomes, and supports economic growth,” the report states. “However, it is woefully neglected in policymaking and is often not regarded as ‘real work.'”
In India, the childcare crisis was evident last week when a video of a Chandigarh policewoman directing traffic while holding her baby went viral on social media. Unfortunately, while the image garnered much praise for her work ethic, it failed to stir a larger discussion about why the policewoman had to take her child to work — and how some women might not have that option.
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“The childcare crisis is at a tipping point,” the report notes, and the world’s economic responses to the pandemic could push it — push women — over the edge. Before the start of the pandemic, the number of women living in poverty globally was projected to decline by 2.7% between 2019 and 2021. Instead, “… now it looks like poverty for women will go up by 9%. That’s almost 50 million more women globally in poverty,” Anita Zaidi, president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s gender equality division, told The Guardian.
Only 8% of the world’s economic responses to the Covid19 pandemic have addressed the unpaid carework women have been forced to perform — and two-thirds of the world have enacted no economic relief at all.
The report was published by Gates Foundation, in partnership with the International Development Research Centre, the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women East Africa initiative, and the Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy.
“A year into the pandemic, we are no longer just worrying about progress on women’s equality coming to a standstill,” the report says. “We’re now seeing the possibility of such progress being reversed. The devastating impact that Covid-19 has had on women’s livelihoods cannot be overstated.”