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WTO report draws attention to impact of COVID-19 trade disruptions on women

Women are likely to be harder hit than men by trade disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the dangers are particularly acute in developing countries according to a new information note from the WTO Secretariat. The paper points to how governments’ policy responses could address gender-specific effects of the crisis.

Key Points:

  • Women are at risk of suffering more than men from the trade disruption generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the reasons for this is that a larger share of women works in sectors and types of firms that have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic.
  • Women make up a larger share of the workforce in the manufacturing sectors, such as textiles, apparel, footwear and telecommunication products, that experienced some of the largest falls in export growth during the first months of the pandemic. For example, female employees represent 80 per cent of the workforce in ready-made garment production in Bangladesh, in which industry orders declined by 45.8 per cent over the first quarter of 2020, and by 81 per cent in April alone.
  •  A larger share of women than men works in services, such as tourism and business travel services, that have been directly affected by regional and international travel restrictions.
  • A large share of firms owned or managed by women are micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and lower levels of financial resources and limited access to public funds are placing the survival of such businesses at greater risk.
  • The economic impact of the pandemic is expected to be particularly significant for women in least-developed and developing economies because fewer women than men are employed in these economies in occupations which can be undertaken remotely, and a larger share of women is employed in sectors highly exposed to international travel restrictions.
  • The effects of the pandemic are aggravating existing vulnerabilities. Many channels through which COVID-19 is having a greater impact on women are those at the heart of gender inequalities, such as lower wages for women, fewer educational opportunities, limited access to finance, greater reliance on informal employment and social constraints. Limited access to digital technologies and lower rates of information technology (IT) skills further reduce women’s opportunities for teleworking and e-commerce, and thus for adapting to the current crisis.
  • Many governments have adopted a broad range of support measures to help individuals and businesses. Some of these measures, mainly social protection initiatives adopted by some central or local governments, are specifically targeted at women.
  • Maintaining open trade during the economic recovery period is key to building faster and more inclusive growth.

 

You can find the paper here