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Gender inequalities deepen in multiple countries due to impacts of Covid-19

New research reveals how Covid-19 has deepened gender inequalities and gender poverty in countries including India, South Africa, Mexico, Peru, Benin and Burkina Faso. Three studies commissioned by the Covid-19 Responses for Equity (CORE) initiative found that women working in the informal sector and gender minorities were more severely negatively affected than men by pandemic measures such as lockdowns and financial support policies.

The findings, being discussed at an official side event during the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) next week (24 March), also reveal an increase in domestic violence in households affected economically by the pandemic. An increase in gender-based violence among gender minority groups and limited access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health, among marginalised groups has also been found.

Based on the findings published in ‘Why Covid-19 recovery must be gender responsive’, researchers are calling on governments to urgently implement ‘gender-responsive’ Covid-19 recovery plans to help narrow the widening gender inequalities and poverty gap.

Recommendations for gender-responsive recovery plans include:

  • Support to recover and improve existing livelihoods of female informal sector workers through no or low-interest loans, grants, business capital, moratoriums on permits and fees.
  • Ensure representation of women in key decision-making and rule-setting processes.
  • Consider the benefits of policies that alleviate the financial constraints on households on preventing intimate partner violence.
  • Implement relief measures that are adequate and accessible for all sexual and gender minority communities.
  • Address the specific needs of women and gender minority communities in preparing for future shocks and response measures.

Findings support growing body of evidence

Caroline Ford, Director Democratic and Inclusive Governance, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Chairing the CSW side-event on the importance of a gender-responsive Covid-19 recovery, said:

“This research supports the growing body of evidence on how the pandemic has worsened pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities experienced by women and gender minority communities. The research findings and recommendations should be used to inform gender-responsive, accountable, and democratic policies that empower all gender identities to participate in inclusive and sustainable recovery.”

Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) led the study with 1,982 women in 12 cities globally working in informal sector jobs as domestic workers, waste pickers or street vendors. It found that Covid-19 lockdowns restricted their ability to earn a living, due to lower demand for their goods and services, poorer working conditions or an increase in the amount of unpaid care that fell to them to do. More than a third of the women (35 per cent) reported that increased unpaid care work – due to childcare and school closures during the pandemic – prevented them from working.

Ana Carolina Ogando, Research Associate at WIEGO, discusses the research findings in this short video



In India the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) conducted qualitative research with 1,400 women working in the informal economy as domestic workers or street vendors during Covid-19. They reported loss of employment or wages, as well as depletion of savings, food insecurity, and massive increases in borrowings to overcome the losses. It also found an increase in domestic violence and unpaid care due to school closures and caring for the sick and elderly.

South Africa, Benin and Burkino Faso

The third study assessed the impact of the pandemic on women and gender minorities in Benin, Burkina Faso and South Africa. The research led by the African School of Economics (ASE) revealed that in South Africa Covid-19 has exacerbated the vulnerability of LGBTIQ people and limited their access to health and support services. In Benin they found an increase in domestic violence among households who had been impacted financially by the pandemic, and in Burkina Faso there was an increase in economic inequality between men and women working in the informal sector.

CSW side event

The official side event ‘Why Covid-19 recovery must be gender-responsive’ is on 24 March 2022 at 2pm UTC during the sixty-sixth session of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Registration for the online event is free and open to all.

This news item was first published on the IDS website.