The Asia Foundation Releases Study on Covid-19 & Women in the Economy in South Asia

March 19, 2021 — A new report series, Covid-19 & The New Normal for Women in the Economy in South Asia, provides strong empirical evidence that the economic impact of the pandemic is expected to be particularly significant for women in South Asia, one of the top five affected regions in the world. The Asia Foundation’s regional synthesis report draws on four country-level studies in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan to present the immediate consequences of the pandemic on women, including informal sector workers and enterprises.

Based on both quantitative and qualitative information, collected through field surveys, the regional report notes that the gender disparity and impact on women has been quite striking, particularly those engaged in the gig economy, domestic work industry, salon and personal services, and those working in micro and small enterprises. Even in formal employment structures, women workers were disproportionately impacted given the burden of unpaid domestic and care work.

Common challenges among the four countries include job loss, followed by a drop in income level, business contraction, financial losses and vulnerabilities, and loss in business for women-led MSMEs. Many respondents reported that they were not aware of government stimulus packages, and further that these packages were not targeted to support those operating in the informal sector. The country reports have identified a set of policy recommendations to enhance government responses for safeguarding and promoting women’s participation in the informal economy and services sector.

The Asia Foundation would also like to acknowledge Moody’s contributions to this initiative.

Additional Foundation reports on the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic across Asia are available, including research conducted on ASEAN, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Timor-Leste.

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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