Inequalities between women and men in the labour market have widened during the pandemic, erasing at least two years of progress made over the past decade, according to the PwC Women in Work Index report, which shows that it will now take years and even decades to close the gap.
The estimates show that it will be necessary 33 years for female labour force participation rate to match men’s current 80%, 9 years for female unemployment rate to match men’s current rate and 63 years to close the gender pay gap.
After a decade of slow but consistent gains from women in work, the Index fell for the first time in its history, the two main contributing factors to the Index decline were higher female unemployment and lower female participation rates during the worst of the pandemic. Childcare and domestic work responsibilities played a significant role in causing women to leave the workforce, shows the report.
”The COVID-19 pandemic has made the goal of gender equality for women in work even more of a challenge. To reverse the setback to women’s employment outcomes, we need governments and businesses to lead the way by rebuilding our economies with effective policies which explicitly consider the needs of women and other disadvantaged groups. This is essential if we are to improve equality and achieve a fairer future for everyone in both work and society,” Larice Stielow, Senior Economist PwC UK, said.
The Index estimates a “COVID-19 gap”, which compares job losses to the employment growth projected prior to the pandemic, finding there were 5.1 million more women unemployed and 5.2 million fewer women participating in the labour market than would be the case had the pandemic not occurred.
Increasing women’s employment across the OECD could boost OECD gross domestic product (GDP) by USD 6 trillion per annum. Meanwhile, closing the gender pay gap could boost women’s earnings across the OECD by USD 2 trillion per annum, PwC’s analysis finds.
Effective policy action is needed to achieve greater gender equality in workplaces globally. This means more flexible working options, particularly that address the underlying gender inequalities in unpaid care and domestic work, policies like equal paid parental leave that help to redistribute the unequal burden of care carried by women, upskilling and reskilling and encouraging entrepreneurship.
Even more critical will be the need for government and business to support women to benefit from the job opportunities created by the transition of OECD economies to net zero.
New Zealand tops the list of countries with the highest labour market progress for women for the first time in the 10-year history of the index, followed by Luxembourg and Slovenia.
The United Kingdom climbed seven places (from 16th to 9th), the biggest rise in the rankings of all 33 OECD countries, while Canada saw the biggest drop in the rankings, falling eight places from 12th to 20th. The United States dropped four places, from 22nd to 26th.
The PwC Women in Work Index, now in its tenth edition, assesses women’s employment outcomes across 33 OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.