Expert Insight
Credits @DELFINO
Published on October 27, 2020

Poverty, COVID-19 and its differentiated impact on women

Eliminating poverty in all its forms is the foundation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Despite this, the World Bank estimates that poverty will increase for the first time since 1998 and according to calculations by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), human development will register a decline since its first measurement in 1990 .

In this context, the International call for the Eradication of Poverty takes on a particular sense of urgency, especially due to its differentiated impacts on populations in greater conditions of vulnerability, such as indigenous peoples, people of African descent, migrants, with disabilities, affecting in all scenarios with greater intensity to women.

Women have been disproportionately affected by the economic and social impacts of COVID-19. According to recent estimates by UN Women and UNDP, 47 million women and girls will fall into poverty .

In Costa Rica, the unemployment rate for women shot up during the pandemic, reaching 30.4% in the second quarter of 2020, 10 percentage points above the rate for men (20%), according to data from the Continuous Employment Survey published by the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC) in August 2020. This is the highest unemployment rate in the country's history, representing a worrisome increase of 120,000 unemployed women in the last year.

Those women with the lowest levels of education have been the most affected by the crisis. Among women with incomplete primary education, there has been a 54% reduction in their participation in the labor market. The uneven impacts are related to their greater participation in economic activities strongly impacted by the crisis, including the service sectors, tourism, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), informal employment and paid domestic work.

Similarly, the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated other gender gaps that negatively affect the economic autonomy of women, such as the disproportionate burden assumed by women of the work of caring for children and dependents, and, work unpaid domestic. Gender biases and stereotypes continue to produce unequal opportunities. The insecurity of women in the face of acts of violence has also worsened in places that should be spaces of protection, belonging, calm and serenity: their homes.

This situation becomes more complex in a current scenario where poverty, according to the National Household Survey of July 2020 of the INEC, reached 26.2% of the country's households, which represents 30% of the population. This percentage is equivalent to 1,529,255 people living in poverty, estimating an increase of 321,874 in the last year. The percentage of people in extreme poverty increased to 8.5%. At the territorial level, the Central Pacific region has the highest level of poverty and extreme poverty: 34.7% and 11.3% respectively, reminding us of the need to redouble efforts to reduce territorial inequalities and improve the quality of institutional services in rural areas to promote sustainable and inclusive development.

Facing this challenge will require a collective effort that also includes actions aimed at addressing the degradation of the environment, the manifestations of which are hardest hit on people living in vulnerable conditions.

Economic empowerment of women and the green economy as opportunities

The gender gaps present in the labor market have deepened during the pandemic, generating a serious threat of regression in the fulfillment of women's human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Recognizing the gender dimensions of poverty and the need to advance decisively in effective equality between women and men, the Government of Costa Rica and the United Nations System, through the agencies UNDP, FAO, ILO and UN Women, are implementing the " Joint Program: Strengthening the Bridge to Development Strategy to break the cycle of poverty at the local level, with a gender and environmental perspective ." This is an initiative financed by the Joint Fund for the SDGs with direct impact in the cantons of Puntarenas, Buenos Aires and Limón.

The actions of this Program are aimed at strengthening the capacities and articulation of the entities of the social protection system, with emphasis on the welfare, agriculture and labor components of Puente al Desarrollo. To do this, it works with the Mixed Institute of Social Assistance (IMAS), the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of Costa Rica (MAG), the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MTTS) and the National Institute of Women (INAMU), among other entities key, promoting the adoption of tools and intervention models sensitive to gender, social protection and the environment.

As part of the activities promoted, there is the provision of non-reimbursable funds for productive initiatives of women in conditions of poverty and economic vulnerability, the generation of skills for their employability, entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship, and the reduction of gender gaps in access to financial resources. Another effort is aimed at developing an electronic commerce platform to facilitate the sale of products by businesswomen and entrepreneurs in situations of poverty or economic vulnerability, linking them directly with consumers.

We are facing a unique opportunity to guarantee a more peaceful, equitable and resilient future. We reiterate our commitment to continue working with Costa Rica to move decisively towards the eradication of poverty. Multisectoral work is an indisputable ally to leave no one behind in these critical moments for the world.