In Sep. 25, 2015, the UN Development Summit kicked off at the UN headquarters in New York, with the adoption of a landmark post “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. In this agenda, Goal 5 clearly specifies out the gender discrimination problem, and urges that every participant country should “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.
This year, Department of Economic and Social Affairs of United Nations (UN DESA) published “Sustainable Development Outlook 2020” to look back and think about what we have achieved in the past 5 years, especially in the wake of COVID-19, one of the biggest unprecedented pandemic human being have ever suffered from.
UN DESA made three main conclusions:
First, the impact of the crisis has not affected all countries and all people in the same way, and it is quite possible to regain the momentum and move ahead towards the SDGs;
Second, it is possible to convert the crisis into an opportunity for recovering better by gearing policy interventions toward the strengthening of human and planetary resilience, and directing much of the resources earmarked for recovery toward investment in promoting the Goals;
Third, the impact of COVID-19 has varied across the SDGs. While its impact for many prosperity-related SDGs was negative, its impact for many planet-related SDGs has been positive.
As for Goal 5, UN DESA gave a negative response to the achievement, because the slowned-down economic growth, increased unemployment, and raised poverty and hunger is much more harmful to females who are already disadvantaged in economic life and enjoy fewer resources.
According to the estimation, the global output will shrink by 5.2 per cent in 2020, and if the lockdowns continue, this estimation could go worse to about 8 per cent. As a chain reaction, the unemployment rate and global poverty headcount will also experience dramatic decrease. All these deprivations are likely to hit children, women, and the elderly, as well as other vulnerable groups, harder.
According to the pre-COVID-19 benchmark scenario which has already been laid out in the 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) (Independent Group of Scientists appointed by the Secretary General, 2019), gender equity is still a problem which is considered within reach with extra efforts. In another word, we still have a long way to go.
And the emergence of unprecedented pandemic brings a huge shock to the pessimistic status quo. One specific setback is the effects arising from crisis response measures such as social distancing and mandated lockdowns. These, for women in particular, lead to a disproportionate increase in the burden of care work as well as greater risk of domestic violence.
Overall, while it is clear that the adverse impact of COVID-19 is huge, and would be substantial, examining the exact quantitative dimensions is difficult to pin down. For gender equity in workplace, the existence of many interfering factors hinders the accurate analysis of COVID-19’s negative effects. For example, in a downside macroeconomics background, when many entrepreneurs are at a risk of collapse and have to lay off a large number of clients, it is difficult to figure out whether they lay off a female client is simply because of the company’s fiscal austerity measure, or because of the invisible gender discrimination. It is hard for everyone to continue their lives, so the discrimination problem seems more covert and less attractive.
But we need to keep focus on it, as the pandemic will finally come to an end, and we don’t want to find out later on that all the progress we’ve made has gone back to the start under the cover of the COVID-19. It is time for females to achieve true workplace equity, just right now.