The webinar discussed the policy note Gender Gaps in Eurasia, which summarises the main challenges facing women in the region following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and presents priority actions and policy recommendations to ensure a more inclusive and sustainable recovery for all. As COVID-19 has exacerbated many of the problems that confront women in the Eurasia region and thrown gender inequalities into sharp relief, it is crucial for governments in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia to understand the issues, prioritise actions and exchange ideas on how better to plan the recovery. This webinar presented the main policy issues and options for supporting women and men across the region, building on OECD experience, in order to ensure that the recovery is as equitable and inclusive as possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the socio-economic vulnerability of women in the Eastern Partner region (EaP) and Central Asia. Domestic violence has increased dramatically; women have taken on more unpaid work; remittance flows to households have fallen; and labour market conditions have deteriorated, particularly in sectors relying heavily on female workers and with high levels of informality. Women are also at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, representing around 70% of the medical staff worldwide.
First estimates show that the pandemic could set progress towards gender equality in the region back 15 years. A variety of gender gaps – pay, poverty, access to finance, digitalisation – appear to be growing:
- Access to sexual and reproductive health services for women has become more difficult
- Women across Eurasia have been facing increased levels of domestic violence.
- Women in Eurasia tend to be disproportionately employed in harder-hit or vulnerable sectors, such as textiles, food services and accommodation, leading to greater reductions in pay and employment.
- The domestic care burden, traditionally taken up by women, has greatly increased as a result of measures taken to contain the spread of the virus.
At the same time, women in the region often have fewer resources with which to cushion the adverse effects of the pandemic and a much more limited voice in public and private decision-making. In both public and private spheres, key decision-making roles are overwhelmingly held by men, and indicators of financial literacy and labour-market opportunity point to continuing barriers that women face. Yet women must have a strong role in shaping post-crisis policies if we are to ensure an inclusive recovery for women and men alike. The evidence of past crises shows how their exclusion from decision-making can warp recovery policies, often resulting in significant gaps.