W7-FES BLOG | “Feminist Solutions for a Socially Just Covid-19 Economic Recovery”

20 April 2022 |

Times of crisis and renewal present opportunities for brave and innovative policy choices. Consensus is emerging on the need for a ‘socially just’ Covid-19 economic recovery, but agreement on what this means is harder to reach. The real challenge for G7 leaders remains how to ensure transformative change – rejecting the old ‘normal’ in favour of an economy centred on wellbeing and care. It is time for feminist alternatives to take centre stage.

This is an excerpt of the FES W7 blog post by W7 Advisors at the Gender & Development Network. Please read the full blog article on the FES blog page “Considering the entire economic picture?”.

A feminist Covid-19 economic recovery

Prime Minister Trudeau supports a ‘feminist Covid-19 recovery’, as does UN Secretary-General Guterres. Proposals from around the world demonstrate that feminist policy alternatives are both necessary and viable.  Building on this rich literature, in cooperation with feminists in Argentina, India, the Philippines and Uganda, a new report from the Gender and Development Network suggests some lessons from the experiences of the pandemic in these countries.

Governments fail to address inequalities

The pandemic exposed and exacerbated inequalities globally – with impacts borne especially by women experiencing intersecting discriminations. Government responses were uneven and hampered by persistent inequalities.

Women’s unpaid care escalated with school closures, extra cleaning, caring for the sick, and time spent sourcing food. Some Indian women were even deterred by their families from taking jobs so they had time for extra care work. Yet government measures to address unpaid care were rare.

Women’s unemployment has been deeper than that of men, and their return to work slower. The informal nature of their work also created barriers around social protection, as in India, where many women face eligibility restrictions on relief measures. The Ugandan government’s rescue packages supported large companies rather than women-led small businesses. Women who retained their livelihoods also faced additional hardship. In Uganda, women were allowed to continue trading to maintain food supplies – but only if they slept in the markets rather than travelling home, further exposing themselves to infections and violence. Even in Argentina, where the government ostensibly pursued progressive policies on care, domestic workers faced increased workloads or unemployment.

Lessons for the future

Transformative policy measures are needed if Covid-19 economic recovery is to be socially just. Three clear proposals emerge for decision-makers.

  1. Protect and promote participatory decision making – centring those most impacted. Funding for women’s rights organisations can help amplify the voices of those most marginalised, while local women leaders have demonstrated the value of listening to communitiesREAD MORE