The Asia Foundation Supports APEC Policy Brief on Women, Covid-19, and the Future of Work

January 4, 2021 — Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies are expecting severe economic repercussions from Covid-19. According to Women, Covid-19, and the Future of Work a new policy brief prepared by the APEC Policy Support Unit with the support of The Asia Foundation, women will face disproportionate impacts caused by the pandemic.
The policy brief outlines the impact of Covid-19 on women in the economy, provides an overview of Future of Work challenges from the perspective of women in the workforce, and applies a gender lens to the current 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).

The sectors hardest hit by the pandemic are those where women are more likely to be working, presenting the possibility that women workers and women-led micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises will bear the brunt of the economic downturn from Covid-19. In addition, women’s access to financing and capital are likely to be further limited, restricting their ability to respond to the economic impacts of Covid-19, such as shifting to e-commerce and other digital operations.

Increases in demands for caretaking work will further widen gender gaps in the labor force if women’s productivity declines or they opt to leave the labor force to meet these critical but unpaid responsibilities. APEC economies play a critical role in working to prevent and address violence and harassment at home, work, and online, while also ensuring that support services remain adequate.

The pandemic may also accelerate the deployment of 4IR technologies, increasing the risk of job displacement for routine and manual jobs that employ high numbers of women across APEC economies. While technology industries boom in the Covid-19 environment, reskilling and upskilling efforts are needed to equip women and other at-risk groups with marketable skills. APEC can play a proactive role in prioritizing efforts that support STEM education, mentoring, training, skill-building, and access to STEM jobs for women and girls.

The impacts of Covid-19 on women’s economic participation are serious and there are important steps that APEC economies can take to address existing inequalities. The policy brief concludes with immediate and long-term policy recommendations so that women can capitalize on opportunities emerging from the changing nature of work as Covid-19 ushers in new ways of doing business.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote international cooperation.

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