The impact of COVID-19 on women in the workplace in Asia

Anu Madgavkar, partner at the McKinsey Global Institute based in our Mumbai office, discusses the disproportionate effect COVID-19 has had on women’s lives and livelihoods in Asia, and the opportunities available if steps are taken to address gender inequality.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating consequences for lives and livelihoods, but women have been particularly hard hit. The economic consequences are huge. At the same time, taking steps to address gender equality at this time offers a potential pathway out of the crisis and $4.3 trillion more of GDP in Asia by 2030.

Globally, women account for 39 percent of the workforce, but as much as 54 percent of the job losses due to COVID-19, by our estimates. This is partly the sectors and occupations that they work in, like retail, accommodation and food services. It’s partly the burden of unpaid care work that has fallen disproportionately on women at this time. And it’s partly age-old attitudes that hold women back.

Not taking steps to address this creeping gender inequality in the time of COVID could cost the world economy a trillion dollars of GDP by 2030. At the same time, if steps were taken, this would mean that global GDP could be $13 trillion higher than otherwise, and $4.3 trillion higher in Asia. That’s a huge opportunity.

Moving now matters. Delaying action could mean a cost of $5 trillion, an opportunity loss therefore. And therefore, the quicker the push, the bigger the gain, and the bigger the benefit for everybody: for companies, for employers, for women, for societies, and for economies.

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