EPIC Technical Meeting Autumn 2021 – Third Session On “COVID-19 Recovery For More Gender Equality At Work”

16 Dec 2021

On 18 November, the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) held the third of four virtual sessions of its members-only annual technical meeting. The meeting focused on countries’ recovery plans for more gender equality at work, as well as on the impact of COVID-19 on the private sector.

During the first part of the discussions, representatives from governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, and international organizations, highlighted the gendered impacts of the pandemic on the labour market and provided relevant policy examples supporting a gender inclusive recovery:

• Cross-country evidence shows that the pandemic has exacerbated gender inequalities, with gendered impacts on the labour market and the economy. Women have been suffering steeper increases in unemployment, in unpaid work and difficulties in work-life balance. While the European experience shows the relevance of job retention schemes to support employment, evidence from Asia highlights that employment gaps are even larger in regions where public support for jobs and businesses is more limited and the incidence of the informal economy is higher.
• Relevant policies adopted to address the consequences of the pandemic on labour and pay gaps include formalising informal work, promoting women’s access to private and public employment, tackling unemployment and preventing lay-offs, extending and providing paid parental care leave and childcare, as well as balancing parental leave between men and women. Investing in the care economy is also key to build resilient economies and support a sustainable job recovery.

The second panel discussion focused on the impact of COVID-19 on the private sector, including SMEs:

• OECD evidence on the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on SMEs shows that women are more likely to report business closures and reductions in hours worked and in income compared to men. This relates to a sectoral segregation of men and women in SMEs, where women tend to be overrepresented in the hardest-hit sectors; women experiencing increased pressures of unpaid work during the pandemic; and their lower access to resources in times of need.

• If larger businesses could access business and employment support, SMEs and self-employed people struggled to qualify for these support measures. Policy lessons show that governments adjusted measures to changing contexts and that tailored measures tend to work better than general measures. Nonetheless, the measures have focused on immediate financial pressures but have done little to support the ecosystem of entrepreneurs. Policy actions are needed to create an ecosystem of support and to improve social security for the self-employed, including platform workers, alongside tailored measures to address labour shortages, gender mainstreaming in recovery schemes and gender impact assessments.