Davos WEF
Davos WEF

Covid pandemic has created a recession for women and girls, Sweden’s foreign minister says

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Key Points
  • Speaking at the virtual Davos Agenda summit earlier this week, Linde said the economic downturn caused by the pandemic had had a "specific impact" on women.
  • The "gender perspective is unfortunately often the first thing to be disregarded" in crisis response situations, Linde said, reflecting on her previous work in Sweden's Ministry of Justice. 
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Ann Linde, during a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Arancha Gonzalez Laya at Palacio de Viana on July 07, 2020 in Madrid, Spain.
Europa Press News | Getty Images

LONDON — Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde has said that the coronavirus pandemic has practically created a recession for women and girls.

Speaking at the virtual Davos Agenda summit earlier this week, Linde said the economic downturn caused by the pandemic had had a "specific impact" on women. Her comments came via videoconference during a panel session entitled: "Placing gender parity at the heart of the recovery." 

Linde said this was because women typically had a less secure position in the labor market in being more likely to do informal work, as well as bearing more responsibility for unpaid care work. In addition, she also highlighted the social issue of increased violence against women amid the pandemic. 

"So, all of these things are a serious threat to gender equality, and I would even go so far as to say that we have a recession for women and girls," Linde said. 

A report by United Nations' International Labour Organization, published in June, found that 510 million, or 40%, of all employed women globally worked in the four hardest-hit sectors by the coronavirus, versus 36.6% of men. 

A separate report by UN Women, published in November, found that by the end of the second quarter of 2020, there were 1.7 times as many women as men outside the labor market — 321 million women versus 182 million men.  

The "gender perspective is unfortunately often the first thing to be disregarded" in crisis response situations, Linde said, reflecting on her previous work in Sweden's Ministry of Justice. 

Indeed, the UN Women report found that while 206 countries and territories had introduced a total of 1,813 measures to address the economic and social fallout of Covid-19 at the time, just 85 had undertaken measures to strengthen women's economic security and only 8% of the measures directly addressed unpaid care work.

Gender diversity 'not optional' 

In a second panel on the same topic, Kevin Sneader, global managing partner at management consultancy McKinsey & Company, highlighted that four-fifths of the 1.1 million people who dropped out of the U.S. workforce in September alone were women.

Meanwhile, he said that up to a quarter of women in developed economies were considering leaving their current jobs amid the pandemic. 

Sneader said that McKinsey & Company had found in its most recent analysis that "flexibility" was the number one factor people were looking for in order to make progress on gender equality.

He argued that amid the current challenges of the crisis it was "good business" for companies to invest in equality.

"It's not optional," he continued. "The notion that now is the right moment to pullback and prioritize other things, I think, is just plain wrong."