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 World Trade Organisation (WTO) Secretariat.
The paper points to how governments’ policy responses could address gender-specific effects of the crisis.
It further pointed out that women make up a larger share of the workforce in the manufacturing sectors, such as textiles, apparel, footwear and telecommunication products, that have seen the largest falls in export growth during the first months of the pandemic, the paper notes.
In the services sector, women also outnumber men in industries that have been directly affected by travel restrictions, such as tourism and business travel services.
The paper estimates the risk posed by trade disruptions on men and women using employment data from the World Bank Enterprise Surveys, monthly merchandise exports data and statistics on the mode by which a service is supplied.
The paper furthermore notes that women are disproportionately present in the informal sector in developing and least-developed countries and in activities that cannot be done remotely.
It also highlights how the existing gender gap in terms of income, education, information technology skills, access to finance, and childcare responsibilities put women at a further disadvantage during the pandemic.
Maintaining open markets during the recovery period is key to building faster and more inclusive growth, the information note states, adding that this should be complemented by appropriate labour and education policies as well as legal and social reforms to support women workers, consumers and traders.
The paper also points to the recently launched WTO-World Bank report “Women and Trade: The role of trade in promoting gender equality”, which highlights ways to ensure women continue to benefit from trade during the economic recovery after the pandemic.