Activists’ work to close the gender pay gap may be undermined by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to experts, as women take time off or are laid off in order to care for others, any advances could be reversed.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that women earn approximately one-fifth less than their male counterparts across the globe with underlying factors including motherhood, employment in lower-wage jobs, stereotypes, and promotion decisions. According to U.N. Women, it could take up to 70 years to reach gender parity.

Anita Bhatia, assistant Secretary-General and deputy executive director of U.N. Women, said to expect an increase in the gap due to women being disproportionately affected by the virus. She said, “We have a lot of very supportive men in society but not enough, and we really need to work on the gender biases or the stereotypes that prevent equal sharing of care.”

The ILO also reported there could be losses of up to 25 million jobs because of COVID-19. Industries that will be particularly hard hit include hospitality and travel, which have high numbers of female employees. A report from PayScale has also indicated that when employees attempt to return to work, which will inevitably happen in droves after the pandemic ceases, women will receive offers up to 7 percent less than candidates who already have a job.

“Women are over-represented in the low-paid service economy jobs that are really getting slammed right now with layoffs,” said Emily Martin, vice president of education and workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center.

 

Sources: Economic Times, 3/31/20; CNBC, 3/24/20.

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