The pandemic has rolled back years of progress towards equality between women and men, according to a report on Wednesday which shows that the crisis had put decades on the path to reducing the gender gap.
A number of studies have shown that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women who have lost jobs at a higher rate than men and had to bear much more of the extra childcare burden when schools closed.
The effects will be felt in the long term, according to the World Economic Forum, which in its annual Global Gender Gap Report found that the goalposts for gender equality seemed to move further away.
The organization, which usually gathers the global elite in the plush Swiss ski resort of Davos every year, found in its previous report, published in December 2019 just before the pandemic, that equality between different areas would be achieved within 99.5 years.
But this year’s report shows that the world is not about to reduce the gender gap by another 135.6 years.
“Another generation of women must wait for gender equality,” the WEF said in a statement.
The Geneva – based organization’s annual report traces gender differences in 156 countries in four areas: education, health, economic opportunity and political empowerment.
Gender equality in the workplace in 267 years
On the plus side, women seem to be gradually reducing gender inequalities in areas such as health and education.
But inequality in the workplace – which has long seemed to be the most sticky area to fix – is still not expected to be eradicated in another 267.6 years.
And the pandemic has not helped.
The WEF pointed to a study by the United Nations International Labor Organization that showed that women were more likely to lose their jobs in the crisis, in part because they are disproportionately represented in sectors directly disrupted by lockdown.
Other studies have shown that women bear a greater share of the burden of increased housework and childcare during lock-in, which contributed to higher stress and lower productivity levels.
Women were also re-employed at a slower rate than men as jobs reopened, according to LinkedIn data cited in the report.
“The pandemic has fundamentally affected equality between women and men in both the workplace and the home, which has led to many years of progress,” said WEF CEO Saadia Zahidi in the statement.
“If we want a dynamic future economy, it is important for women to be represented in tomorrow’s jobs,” she said, emphasizing that “this is the moment to integrate gender parity through design into recovery.”
The political gender gap is growing
It was in the political field that the march against gender equality made the biggest face, with several large population countries seeing the political gender gap widening, the WEF study found.
Women still hold just over a quarter of the seats in parliament worldwide and only 22.6% of ministerial posts.
In its current course, the political gender gap is not expected to close completely for another 145.5 years, the report found.
The WEF pointed out a 50% migration from the estimated 95 years in the 2020 report.
The progress between the categories varies greatly in different countries and regions.
The report pointed out that even if Western European countries could close their total gender gap at 52.1 years, countries in the Middle East and North Africa would take almost 142.4 years to do so.
Overall, the Nordic countries once again dominated the top of the table: the gap between men and women was narrowest in Iceland, for the 12th year in a row, followed by Finland and Norway.
New Zealand took fourth place, ahead of Sweden.