If there is one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has proven, it is that business as usual won’t cut it. The virus has exposed deep inequalities that have been brewing for decades in developing countries. Only new approaches, and most importantly, joint solutions that bridge the public and private sectors, will show us the way forward. Experts estimate that LAC could lose up to 14.4% of GDP in the next three years. How do you protect jobs, protect people from COVID-19, and protect the macroeconomic stability at the same time? The government cannot do it alone. Neither can the private sector.
The current pandemic is a multi-faceted crisis. There is no one-actor-solution that will turn the tide. For example, COVID-19 has forced governments to shut down certain sectors of their economies to save lives. At the same time, companies in those sectors have suffered unprecedented losses and are being forced to let workers go. Some sectors employ thousands of people who were already facing challenges to make ends meet. Governments find themselves balancing the need to save lives and the need to protect people from unemployment.
The pandemic has had an acute impact on women. They are 70% of health workers around the world so they have had increased exposure to the virus. They have also been confronted with a higher risk of domestic violence since many of them confined at home with their aggressors. Finally, they have suffered higher unemployment and loss of income than men, shouldering the brunt of unpaid work due to the closure of schools and care centers. Much has been said about the emergency measures governments around the world need to implement to mitigate these adverse effects, with much less attention placed on the role of private sector companies to help alleviate them. In Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC), a few efforts stand out:
- In Costa Rica, the national care network (REDCUDI) is working together with the private sector to find co-payment schemes where companies can contribute to financing the care needs of their workers.
- In Colombia, the Ministry of Mining and Energy is currently working with over 70 companies in the sector to measure their internal gender economic gaps with the Women’s Empowerment Principles Gender Gap Analysis Tool and prioritize specific actions to increase the number of women working in the sector.
- In the Dominican Republic, BHD León is prioritizing women as a key client niche to make sure that women-led businesses, as well as businesses that create women’s jobs, continue to have access to capital during the crisis.
- In Chile, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs has announced a partnership with Telefónica Movistar to ensure women can access training on digital skills.
During crises, it is essential to be pragmatic and flexible. All of these efforts are happening in the framework of the Gender Parity Accelerators in each country, public-private partnerships supported by the Inter-American Development Bank, IDB Invest, the World Economic Forum, and the French Agency for Development in LAC since 2016. These platforms have allowed for continued public-private dialogue and coordination through the current crisis. But more needs to be done.
The IDB Group has a pivotal role to play in helping countries and businesses find innovative joint solutions in three areas: supporting companies and promoting female entrepreneurship, developing the skills of workers in the region, and promoting regulations that allow us to improve the functioning of our labor markets. The economic recovery of the region will depend on how steadily we can create and recover women’s jobs and this will only be possible if we take a comprehensive approach.
* On Women’s month, we will talk about female employment in the region. Join the conversation by subscribing to our blog and following on us Twitter @BID_Igualdad.