Women around the world have been disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, losing 5.4 million jobs in the U.S. in 2020 and $800 billion dollars of income worldwide — more than the combined GDP of 98 countries, and more than the United States’ massive military budget of $721.5 billion, according to a report from Oxfam International.
The report demonstrates an institutional bias against women in the workplace and is only a “conservative” estimate of the total amount of income women lost during the pandemic; the figure does not include the “millions of women working in the informal economy,” including women who work in unregulated positions at home and street vendors. Most of the jobs lost in the formal economy include positions in education, retail, and hospitality, all of which fully or partially ceased operations as a result of the pandemic.
Women lost 64 million jobs around the world in total last year, amounting to five percent of the total number of jobs held by women. The pandemic also more severely impacted women of color — black and latina women lost jobs in December 2020 while white women actually gained jobs and recovered some of their earlier pandemic losses. Women of color are statistically more likely to work in positions that do not offer paid leave or time off, and many were forced to leave their jobs to tend to children or maintain their homes.
The loss in income and employment that women suffered as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic magnifies the ongoing challenges that women face in the workplace and eliminated much of the progress women have made in establishing their role in a male-dominated workforce. Women were already dealing with additional challenges in the workplace, but the lack of any government response or policy changes directed to gender inequality in the wake of the pandemic will only exacerbate these problems. Before the pandemic, women only made an average of 77 cents per dollar made by men, and that number is expected to decrease as the fight against the pandemic continues.
As the United States continues to deal with the pandemic, some of the Biden administration’s recovery measures will potentially lay the foundation for an equal economy. For example, the administration has already vaccinated more than 200 million Americans, and parts of Biden’s relief plans will go toward affordable childcare providers — a total of $39 billion will make for the largest investment in childcare in United States history. Additionally, the proposed American Families Plan will allocate another $1.8 trillion to help speed recovery among the most severely impacted groups in the country.
The only way the United States can make a complete recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is by alleviating some of the financial strain that women were disproportionately left to handle. The United States economy will never be able to reach its full potential without addressing the problems that women face and paving the way for an egalitarian workforce in the future.