World Economy Brief
World Economy Brief
COVID-19 and the Exacerbation of Gender Inequality: How the Pandemic Disproportionately Affected Women around the World
- Author Jennifer Dikler
The gender wage gap, or the idea that women have historically and consistently earned less than men, has been widely studied and accepted over the past few decades. This gender wage gap exists globally and serves as a powerful indicator of the gender inequality experienced by women. As of 2019, according to data amassed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Korea’s gender wage gap among full-time employees is the largest among the countries that make up the OECD, coming in at 32.5%. Japan was second at 32.5%, followed by Mexico, the United States, and Canada at 18.8%, 18.5%, and 17.6%, respectively. Notably, in countries with higher levels of racial diversity, the gender wage gap is usually significantly exacerbated for women of color. Despite narrowing in recent years, the gender wage gap is extremely stubborn, and very much existent, as is the general global gender inequality that it reflects.
In the past 18 months, the world's population and the global economy have been significantly upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has affected virtually every country in the world, especially nations with fewer resources to help combat its spread. Studies are also beginning to confirm that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate economic effect on women in many countries, amplifying the gender inequality that persisted in the global economy even prior to the pandemic. For example, as outlined in a study published by McKinsey in July 2020, “Women make up 39 percent of global employment but account for 54 percent of overall [COVID-19- related] job losses” (Madgavkar et al. 2020). However, the widening of the gender gap during the pandemic has been far from universal, with some countries seeing the opposite results.
This brief seeks to provide an initial exploration, specifically highlighting how variably the pandemic has affected the United States, South Korea, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, the Honduras, Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany. When it comes to global gender equality, where progress is so essential and yet so slow, it is extremely important to explore the economic setbacks created by the pandemic. If not addressed properly, these setbacks might not only slow the fight toward gender equality, but could also slow down the global economy.
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