The Impact of the Economic Crisis on Women's Economic Empowerment
This paper argues that a systematic gender analysis of the current crisis is critical to develop viable solutions and for furthering the trend toward gender equality. It analyses the short- and long-term impact of the current economic crisis with a focus on developing countries. It identifies the multiple channels and transmission mechanisms through which the global economic crisis has affected women's lives and explores different areas where the burden of the crisis falls on poor women, using current indications, micro-level evidence and lessons learned from previous crises. The paper shows that the magnitude and types of effects are context-specific: they are likely to vary across countries, sectors, households and among women, depending on the economic, demographic and social circumstances. In the short run, many women are expected to lose their jobs, particularly those working on the export sectors and/or holding flexible jobs. At the same time, a fall in the supply of micro-credit is expected to result in a decrease in earnings among self-employed women workers in trade, agriculture and other sectors. Additionally, there will likely be an increase in the amount of unpaid work that women do to support their families. In the long-run, it is expected that an increase in girls' dropout rate from school to compensate for their families' loss of income will deteriorate women's future socioeconomic opportunities. In addition, an increase in the level of violence against women, combined with limited access to health and other support services as a result of public expenditure cuts and lower aid receipts, complete the dim picture of the gendered impact of the crisis in developing countries. The paper concludes that it is essential to implement mechanisms to mitigate the negative effects of the crisis on women, in order to ensure that the gains in women's empowerment and gender equality in the last few decades are not put in danger. Furthermore, it is argued that the crisis can be used as a unique opportunity to change power structures and make economic and social policies more gender-aware and move toward creating a more gender-equal society and economic system. To that end, civil society involvement to monitor the gender effects of the crisis in the short and medium term, as well as government-led (and donor supported) gender-aware response packages will be essential.
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