Working women in LAC region disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 pandemic

LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN — The fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has uniquely impacted working women in the Caribbean, where they are commonly heads of their households or raising single-parent families, simultaneously being the primary “breadwinner” as well as filling traditional unpaid caretaking roles.

In a recently released report, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) noted, “Women have been on the front line in combating the pandemic: they represent 73 percent of all health-sector workers.

“Moreover, lockdown measures, quarantines, school closures and an increase in the number of people falling ill are increasing the pressure on women to provide both paid and unpaid care. It is worth noting that women already spend triple the amount of time in unpaid care work as men.”

A separate United Nations report also highlighted how pandemic-related job losses in the region “have been particularly severe in the informal sector, where most occupations are contact-intensive; and women, young people and workers with low education, who make up the bulk of employment in sectors such as retail and hospitality, were disproportionately affected”.

To put it in perspective, an estimated one in every five women in Latin America and the Caribbean lost their jobs during the pandemic, according to a joint report by the ECLAC and International Labour Organization (ILO).

Now, as a gradual return of tourism has Caribbean nations optimistic about economic recovery, the ECLAC is concerned that laid-off women may not return to the workforce at all.

The organization predicted, “Men are likely to regain pre-crisis [labour] participation levels, while women’s participation rates are expected to be similar to those of 2006 (49 percent).”

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    Additionally, when it comes to continued unemployment heading into 2022, the ECLAC said “as with the participation rates, women are expected to fare worse”.

    In that vein, the ECLAC and ILO are encouraging governments to help ease a return to work of their hardest-hit displaced workers, including women.

    “It is imperative to develop strategies that will lay the foundations for a return to better working conditions for all workers,” the joint ECLAC and ILO report noted.

    “This will entail bolstering job recovery in the hardest-hit categories and sectors and improving institutional capacities related to occupational health and safety, the formalization of workers, increased women’s labour market inclusion and the appropriate regulation of new forms of work.”

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    United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean “Recovery Paradox in Latin America and the Caribbean” —

    United Nations 2021 World Economic Situation Prospects —

    United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and International Labour Organization 2021 Employment Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean —

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