From insights to action: Gender equality in the wake of COVID-19


This report, titled From insights to action: Gender equality in the wake of COVID-19, published by UN Women on September 2, 2020, states, “The impacts of crises are never gender-neutral and COVID‑19 is no exception.”

The report summarises the data, research and policy work produced by UN Women on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women and girls worldwide. It discusses the pandemic’s effects on the employment and health of women and girls, on the unpaid care work done by them, and violence against women and girls. The report highlights the paucity of ‘gender data’ and calls for greater investment in producing data on the gendered effects of the crisis.

The 17-page report contains seven sections – an introduction (section 1); ‘Immediate health impacts: there’s a lot we still don’t know’ (section 2); ‘COVID‑19 has pummelled feminized labour sectors’ (section 3); ‘COVID‑19 will push millions more into extreme poverty’ (section 4); ‘Income and time poverty create a double bind for women’ (section 5); ‘For many women and girls, home is not a safe space’ (section 6); ‘Gender data need to be prioritised’ (section 6) and ‘We have the tools to address this crisis’ (section 7).


  1. Emerging data, notes the report, indicate that poor and marginalised communities are more vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19 than others. The differences among people in terms of their susceptibility to infection and death reflect pre-pandemic economic and social disparities, including inequalities in employment and living conditions. For poor and marginalised communities, such disparities are compounded by unequal access to healthcare, and their greater propensity for underlying health conditions.

  2. A slowing economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic, job losses and lack of social protection, are expected to push between 71 and 135 million more people into extreme poverty, after years of steady decline in poverty rates. 

  3. Typically, women earn less and have less secure jobs than men. With economic activity plummeting during the pandemic, women are particularly vulnerable to layoffs and losing their livelihoods. Some of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic are ‘feminised’ sectors – such as accommodation and food service – which are characterised by low wages and poor working conditions, including the lack of basic worker protections like paid sick leave. The pandemic has also intensified women’s unpaid care work and their domestic workload.

  4. The Covid-19 crisis is likely to increase female poverty. The report states that globally, 247 million women over 15 years will be living on less than $1.90 per day in 2021, as compared to 236 million men.

  5. Women have lesser access to land, financial capital and other assets, and this makes it harder for them to rebuild their small businesses. Surveys conducted by UN Women in Europe and Central Asia highlight the pandemic’s impact on self-employed women and men. While men are more likely to see their working hours reduced (54 per cent of men as opposed to 50 per cent of women), more women have lost their jobs or businesses due to Covid-19 (25 per cent of women as opposed to 21 per cent of men).

  6. The surge in Covid-19 cases is straining even the most advanced health systems, such as those in Europe and North America. Surveys conducted by UN Women show that in 4 of 10 countries in Europe and Central Asia, at least half of all the women in need of family planning services have experienced major difficulties in accessing them since the pandemic began. In Asia and the Pacific, 60 per cent of women reported facing more barriers to seeing a doctor than before as a result of the pandemic.

  7. About 243 million women and girls globally, between the ages of 15 and 49, have been subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner in the last year. The report states that violence against women and girls has intensified since the outbreak of Covid-19. Confinement may cause violent partners to exercise greater power and control, state the authors. At the same time, women have lesser income than men, fewer opportunities for social contact, and limited access to services and community support – all of which give them fewer exit options.

  8. The report states that over 100 million women and girls can be lifted from poverty globally if governments implement a comprehensive policy strategy aimed at improving access to education, family planning, equal wages and ‘social transfers’. The cumulative cost of eradicating global poverty by 2030 is estimated at $2 trillion, just 0.14 per cent of the global gross domestic product.

    Focus and Factoids by Nalinaksha Singh.

    PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.


Ginette Azcona, Antra Bhatt, Jessamyn Encarnacion, Juncal Plazaola-Castaño, Papa Seck, Silke Staab, Laura Turquet


UN Women


02 Sep, 2020