From OUR EDITORIAL STAFF we have gone out in search of those social and economic factors that have been most modified as a result of Covid-19. That is why we found it interesting in our contribution today to go further in our search and put as title “The fight for increased equality in the post-Covid stage”.
We are going to see mainly the behavior of the labor markets in terms of equality, both in the North American giant and in the EU.
From the data we have access to, more than 4.3 million Employer Identification Numbers were applied for in the United States, a first step in launching a new business. That’s a 24% increase (comparing 2020 to 2019), with the largest increases in Black communities. Everything indicates that the United States, despite Covid, was enjoying a business renaissance during the pandemic, with strong growth in a sector prone to fluctuations, since the small business owner and entrepreneur is always more exposed to crises, changes and overall instability.
Some believe this boom is out of necessity, with an estimated 800,000 businesses, shops and restaurants closed in the United States in the first year of the pandemic, forcing employees who lost their jobs to find new ways to be able to bring money to their families.
Optimal conditions to create growth opportunities
What it does seem is that, both in the United States and in the rest of the world, the pandemic has created fertile conditions for a transformation in who participates in the business economy. In other words, it has created thousands of opportunities for entrepreneurs, and is also a key activity for economic development in any country.
High-growth entrepreneurship is a driver of innovation and job growth, and local entrepreneurship keeps cities and neighborhoods vibrant, allowing access to much-needed goods and services. It serves as a solution to economic inequality and empowerment, and can produce significant wealth for those who are successful. The time has come for policymakers, financial institutions and consumers to encourage this growth, and there are clear steps on how to do so.
Let’s see our European environment
Women were at the forefront of dealing with the pandemic: 76% of health and social workers, 86% of personal care workers in health services are women. With the pandemic, women in these sectors saw an unprecedented increase in workload, health risk, and work-life balance challenges. Women in the labor market have been greatly affected by the pandemic and this is due, in a fundamental part, to the fact that women are overrepresented in the sectors most affected by the crisis (commerce, hospitality, care and domestic work), because these jobs cannot be done remotely. Women also had a harder time re-entering the labor market during the partial recovery in the summer of 2020, with employment rates increasing 1.4% for men but only 0.8% for women between the second and the third quarter of 2020.
Lockdowns have a significant impact on unpaid care and work-life balance: women spend, on average, 62 hours a week caring for children (compared to 36 hours for men) and 23 hours a week for domestic work (15 hours for men)
While entrepreneurship may be an individual decision, several trends are emerging nationally in the United States, as new business growth from 2020 is highest in non-store retail and warehousing businesses, which have accounted for a third of the recent trade increase in this country. This increase reflects the rise of e-commerce during the pandemic.
The geography of new business growth is also changing for North Americans. Before the pandemic, most of this growth occurred in traditional business districts and city centers. That is now moving to the suburbs and neighborhoods outside of the centers. Growth has skyrocketed in areas with high-income neighborhoods and also a high proportion of black residents.
Mass layoffs and greater number of ventures
Among the reasons that have led to this boom in the world, we can find the mass layoffs that may have encouraged some people to make a living by pursuing a passion instead of rejoining the workforce.
At the same time, technology has changed the nature and location of work. The pandemic has boosted the market for products that encourage remote work, particularly digital communication.
However, this early success requires several follow-up actions to ensure that it translates into persistent economic growth.
Lack of women in key positions
A surprising lack of women in COVID-19 decision-making bodies: a 2020 study found that men greatly outnumber women in bodies created to respond to the pandemic. Of 115 national task forces dedicated to COVID-19 in 87 countries, including 17 EU Member States, 85.2% were mainly composed of men, 11.4% were mainly composed of women, and only 3,5% had gender parity. At a political level, only 30% of EU health ministers are women. The Commission’s task force for the COVID-19 crisis is led by President von der Leyen and includes five other commissioners, three of whom are women.
In the case of the United States, first of all, it is time to direct more funds to non-white entrepreneurs. There is evidence that systemic barriers prevent people of color and people from disadvantaged backgrounds from starting and growing new businesses. The three recent rounds of stimulus payments from the Federal Government to deal with the consequences of Covid unexpectedly addressed this barrier. While none of them were intended to encourage new business formation, each delivered direct cash grants based solely on income, regardless of historical inequalities. It seems that improving access to capital for more diverse entrepreneurs can make a big difference.
Start-ups and job creation
Startups are vital for job growth, innovation and economic resilience. The future of the economy will depend on a well thought out policy to nurture and scale more start-ups, leading to higher economic growth and stronger recovery in future downturns.
Gender equality will make the post-Covid recovery more prosperous and stronger
This year the “International Women’s Day” has been very special, not only because of the importance that the event itself has in societies around the world, but also because exactly 111 years ago the first “International Women’s Day” was celebrated. Women”, when more than a million women and men joined forces and raised their voices for equal rights.
Already on March 8, 2021, we found ourselves at an important turning point, since many of our lives had been temporarily interrupted by the worst health crisis that had not occurred in almost five generations.
While at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic in our hospitals and nursing homes, women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic; they paid a higher price, both economically and socially.
Domestic and gender-based violence increased, women took on a greater share of household chores and Eurostat unemployment figures show that while the male unemployment rate rose from 6.2% to 7.1% in December 2020, the increase among women was more significant, from 6.7% to 7.9%.
In the coming years, we must rebuild our societies and our economies for the better. If we want to grow and thrive in the post-COVID-19 world, we need a more inclusive approach that unlocks all talents, including those of women.
How can we achieve this?
First of all, we must go beyond the ideological debates of the past. Equality between women and men is enshrined in article 23 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This right is not negotiable. It is one of the fundamental pillars on which we have built our European societies.
Economic progress towards gender equality
Promoting economic progress and development, as well as social development, is an imperative for every government. But in the economic field we have to advance in gender equality. Of course, gender equality is the morally right thing to do. But equality of opportunity is also important to enable social and economic progress. When women prosper, societies prosper.
Societies that are more equal with respect to gender end up being much more equal and of course richer, but inequality in general is reduced. They are societies that according to all the investigations work better.
Hence, if the economies of the countries are better rebuilt, it is because there will have been a greater dependence (just and necessary) on the implementation of political actions in the post-Covid-19 recovery plans that have placed equal conditions and opportunities to men and women.
When these political decisions are made at the highest levels and are followed by a corporate culture in tune with gender equality and opportunities, it is possible to rebuild after a harsh crisis such as the pandemic in a more equitable and equal way, ensuring the participation of women in the economy and addressing income inequalities.
If we want to build long-term economic resilience after COVID-19, we must address the gender-specific issues that have prevented women from having equal rights and opportunities. This is why we need to incorporate successful gender approaches into European stimulus and recovery packages. Gender equality and, more generally, inclusion are important drivers of transformation for the renewal of our economies after the pandemic. If we can unlock the full economic and entrepreneurial potential of women, our recovery efforts will lead to stronger and more resilient economies and societies.
Intensify international efforts
This has to do with an elementary conclusion to any great economic crisis, such as that due to the pandemic: women and girls are often the first victims.
This was no different for the Covid-19 pandemic, as the severe health crisis has exposed the vulnerable position of girls and women in many parts of the world, especially in fragile and conflict-affected states.
As a world leader in development, Europe has a special responsibility. We must make every effort to ensure that its humanitarian and development response to the Covid-19 pandemic includes strengthening access to education and health care for girls and women, including the promotion of SRHR [sexual and sexual health and rights]. [reproductive health], and supporting girls and women on their path to economic independence.
Let’s take advantage of this moment to build more inclusive and supportive societies where equal rights are paramount, not only on paper but also in everyday life. It will not only empower women, but also men. Since equal rights will be a step forward for both, also allowing men to break with traditional roles and stereotypes. It will not be easy. But it is possible.
The impacts of crises are never gender neutral
And COVID-19 is no exception. While men are reported to have a higher mortality rate, women and girls are particularly affected by the resulting economic and social consequences. It is proven that the social and economic impacts on women and girls have worsened across the board. Because it has been women who lost their livelihoods on a global scale during the pandemic faster than men because they are always more exposed to the most affected economic sectors. Especially subsistence economies and in clearly marginal areas of society where women had become the only and stable family breadwinner.
According to new analysis commissioned by UN Women and UNDP, in 2021 about 435 million women and girls lived on less than $1.90 a day, including 47 million pushed into poverty as a result of COVID-19.
More people in the household also means that the burden of unpaid care and domestic work has increased for women and girls, literally pushing some to breaking point. Women and girls in communities already reeling from institutionalized poverty, racism and other forms of discrimination are particularly at risk: they faced higher rates of COVID-19 transmission and deaths and were more exposed to secondary impacts, including loss of income and means of subsistence.
World society needs much more data and precision to understand the full impact of COVID-19, because as the worst of the pandemic is being overcome and it is returning to a state more typical of a different type of flu, what is certain is that the absence of information to the extent that is needed to take concrete actions exposes gender and other persistent lines of inequality. Unfortunately, there are still many unanswered questions. The disaggregation of data on cases, fatalities and social impact by sex, age and other key characteristics (such as ethnicity and race, immigration status, disability and wealth) are all essential indicators to understand the pandemic and the differential impacts it has produced and their social and economic consequences, by region, and especially in terms of gender and equal opportunities.
This information has been prepared by OUR EDITORIAL STAFF