"Advancing Women’s Economic Empowerment to Strengthen Post-Pandemic Recovery and Resilience"
30 September 2020, Malaysia (Virtual)
2020 was an unprecedented time for many. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent travel restrictions, the WEF meetings had to go virtual. While the pandemic had huge negative impacts on the well-being and livelihood of everyone in the Asia Pacific region, we recognize that women and girls faced disproportionate economic and social impacts due to the pandemic.
Against this backdrop, the WEF made a commitment to place women at the forefront of economic recovery. The theme for this year is “Advancing Women’s Economic Empowerment to Strengthen Post-Pandemic Recovery and Resilience” which focuses on identifying the areas where women and girls are disproportionately impacted and coming up with directions and strategies to ensure the post-pandemic recovery of women and girls through economic empowerment and capacity building.
Disproportionate Impact on Women and Girls
The pandemic has aggravated pre-existing economic and social inequalities and heightened the prevalence and severity of issues confronting women and girls from diverse backgrounds. Extensive business closures, particularly among micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in which women represent the majority of workers and entrepreneurs; disproportionate job losses, including among women working in the informal economy; unequal access to technology; an increase in poverty, including in remote and rural areas; an imbalance of unpaid care and domestic work; and rising gender-based violence; are among the particular challenges encountered.
Post-Pandemic Recovery for Women and Girls
In light of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women, and the exacerbation of existing inequalities, it is important for governments to emphasize the implementation of gender-responsive approaches and policies that target women’s economic empowerment as part of their recovery efforts, which include: addressing legal, regulatory and structural barriers that impede women’s economic participation, including those that limit women’s equal access to jobs, industries, working conditions, pay, and credit; improving training for reskilling and upskilling; and supporting women to hold leadership and decision making positions, including in the development and implementation of response and recovery measures. It is also important to recognize and address unequal responsibilities of unpaid care and domestic work, enhance support for affordable and accessible child and elder care, and improve efforts to address gender-based violence. Economies should also strive to address COVID-19 and future health challenges, ensure safety precautions, and protect frontline health and other essential workers.
After the pandemic, the need to bridge the digital divide has become more urgent than ever. As economies all over the globe work to recover from the effects of the pandemic, the digital economy has proved to be a vital aspect. Appropriate digital infrastructure, connectivity, and skills training must be put in place for women. They should also be encouraged to take part in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), including by reducing biases as well as discrimination against them.
The critical role of data was also emphasized in the meeting. Efforts to collect, analyze, disseminate, and use sex-disaggregated data must be intensified in order to measure gender gaps. Such data provides an evidence-based foundation for better policy-making and capacity-building in the region.
Finally, the importance of public-private collaboration was stressed. Emphasizing the positive synergy and its contribution to accelerating women’s economic empowerment and leadership.