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Global gender response tracker: Monitoring how women’s needs are being met by pandemic responses

Dory Olinoy is joined by her two sons while doing the laundry. The two boys, both minors, are forbidden to get out of the streets to play amidst the coronavirus crisis. Dory has to involve them in household chores for them to learn more while the city is still on a community quarantine. Photo: Louie Pacardo / UN Women

COVID-19 is hitting women hard. Without decided action, the pandemic risks erasing the important but fragile progress that women have made in recent decades. What are governments doing to prevent backsliding and protect women’s rights? To answer this question, UN Women and UNDP developed the COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker – a unique database that monitors policy responses to the pandemic. It focuses on measures that address three key challenges: the surge in violence against women and girls, the unprecedented increase in unpaid care work, and the large-scale loss of jobs, incomes and livelihoods. As of March 2021, the tracker has compiled over 3,100 policy measures across 219 countries and territories. In addition to policy measures, the most recent update of the tracker now includes a brand-new dataset on women’s representation in COVID-19 task forces. Here, we provide a snapshot of the findings.

The tracker identifies 1,299 measures across 187 countries that are ‘gender-sensitive’, which means that they: address violence against women and girls (VAW), strengthen women’s economic security (WES) or support unpaid care (UCW). Only 42 countries, 19% of those analysed, have a holistic response, with measures that span all three domains. Worryingly, 15% of countries analysed (32 out of 219) seem to have no gender-sensitive measures in response to COVID-19 at all.

 

Countries with gender-sensitive measures by type

 

Source: UNDP-UN Women COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker. For more information about the methodology, including data sources, date and limitations, please click here
Note: The designations employed and the presentation of material on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UN Women concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. VAW = violence against women; WES = women's economic security; UCW = unpaid care work.

 

Addressing the surge in violence against women is still a priority

The bulk of gender-sensitive measures continue to focus on addressing violence against women and girls, with fewer measures aimed at strengthening women’s economic security or addressing unpaid care work. While Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand are leading responses on violence against women and unpaid care, Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the most measures prioritizing women’s economic security, followed by sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Number of countries that have taken at least one gender-sensitive measure

 

 Click on the label to see a breakdown by region.

Source: UNDP-UN Women COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker. For more information about the methodology, including data sources, date and limitations, please click here.

 

Violence against women needs to be integrated within COVID-19 response plans

The strengthening and adaptation of services for survivors, including shelters, hotlines and police and justice services, make up almost two-thirds of measures taken to respond to violence against women in the context of COVID-19. More than 136 countries have measures in this area. However, only 52 countries have Integrated violence against women into COVID-19 response planning to ensure that support for survivors can continue unimpeded, with a total of 59 measures recorded within such plans, few of which are adequately funded. This is worrying, as the pandemic will have long-lasting consequences that could potentially increase the risk of violence for women and girls.

 

Number of violence against women measure taken in response to COVID-19, by type

 

 Click on the label 'Strengthening of services' to see a breakdown by type of service

Source: UNDP-UN Women COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker.
Note: For more information about the methodology, including data sources, date and limitations, see the methodological note.

 

Social protection and jobs responses should focus more on women

The tracker records over 1,700 social protection and labour market measures taken across 219 countries and territories to address the economic fallout of the pandemic. However, only 13% target women’s economic security and only 11% provide support for unpaid care. This is clearly insufficient to address the profound care and livelihoods crisis brought on by COVID-19.

 

A breakdown of social protection and labour market measures

 

Infographics

 

Source: UNDP-UN Women COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker.

 

Cash transfers and food support dominate responses to women’s economic insecurity

Cash transfers, food and other in-kind support that target women or prioritize them among recipients have been the most common responses to the income and food insecurity triggered by the pandemic. Countries like Colombia, Kenya, and Togo launched new cash transfer programmes targeting informal workers that gave priority or provided extra benefits for women—some of which used digital tools to quickly roll out benefits. In Brazil, Congress approved an emergency cash transfer that provided monthly benefits to 65.9 million informal workers over a nine-month period, with women heads of households receiving double the benefit. Measures aimed at facilitating women’s return to paid work have been far less common, but include wage subsidies with top benefits for women as well as apprenticeship opportunities, gender quotas or job placement services—in Australia, Chile and the Republic of Korea.

 

Most common measures to strengthen women’s economic security and number of countries that have adopted them

 

Source: UNDP-UN Women COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker.
Note: For more information about the methodology, including data sources, date and limitations, see the methodological note.

 

While family leave expands, more efforts are needed to keep care services open and safe

New or expanded family leave provisions enable working parents to take time off paid work to care for children or sick family members. More than 40 countries have taken this step, including Chile, for example, where parents were granted parental leave extensions of up to 90 days in 2020. Norway raised annual childcare leave from 10 to 20 days for each parent, with extra days for single parents and the parents of children with chronic illnesses. However, such leave provisions often do not cover informal workers.

Several countries have also provided support for care services. Costa Rica, Estonia and New Zealand, for example, have supported the continued operation of childcare services, particularly for the children of essential workers during lockdowns; while Bulgaria, Peru and Cabo Verde have scaled up home visits and food and medicine deliveries to older persons or persons with disabilities.

 

Most common measures to address rising unpaid care demands and number of countries that have adopted them

 

Source: UNDP-UN Women COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker.
Note: For more information about the methodology, including data sources, date and limitations, see the methodological note.

 

What’s next?

In the midst of extreme uncertainty and protracted crisis, the multiple challenges that women and girls face as a result of the pandemic require a comprehensive response aimed at addressing gender-based violence, the increased demand for unpaid care and domestic work and heightened levels of economic insecurity.

To achieve this, women’s participation and leadership in pandemic response planning is critical. Yet, new data compiled by UNDP, UN Women and the University of Pittsburgh shows that women are largely excluded from the structures created for this purpose. Of 225 taskforces with sex-disaggregated data, only 4.4% have gender parity, while 84% are dominated by men. 

Related story: Global Gender Response Tracker assesses COVID-19 measures for women

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