Charting a gender-inclusive path for post-pandemic recovery and resilience in Asia
By Erik Jorgensen
April 27, 2023
At the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, many public figures wondered if the shared experience of economic disruption would serve as a great equalizer. It soon proved to be the opposite. Lockdowns, job losses, and intra-household dynamics, exacerbated by a new way of life, widened existing inequalities within society – including those between men and women. How can we ensure that women and girls are included in recovery programs and that the next crisis does not put them at further economic and social disadvantage?
To help answer these questions, the Asian Development Bank Institute and Inclusion Economics at Yale University cohosted the Gender-Sensitive Economic Recovery and Resilience in Asia Conference in Tokyo March 9-10, 2023. The event convened researchers and policymakers in the region to discuss a recovery period in a complex landscape of shocks – not only in public health, but also climate and conflict. Presentations examined what we know about how the economic and political status of women has changed during the Covid-19 era, and what policies can help ensure that post-pandemic recoveries and preparation for future shocks are gender-inclusive.
Pathways to post-pandemic economic recovery for women
The first keynote of the conference was delivered by Rohini Pande, Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director of Inclusion Economics at Yale University. She outlined the dual forces keeping women from fully recovering from the pandemic. First, women were pushed out of the labor market at higher rates, working in less stable jobs and in sectors hit the hardest by lockdowns, like the service industry. Second, they were pulled into relatively more household duties, and were more likely to exit the labor force due to marriage, pregnancy, and difficulties remigrating to areas of economic opportunity. Underlying and driving both of these forces were restrictive gender norms. The degree to which women were affected by these forces was further influenced by characteristics like geographic location, economic status, and household dynamics. Pande used novel analysis of national datasets and household data from a recent impact evaluation in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh to illustrate women’s different experiences of the pandemic in India, drawing particular attention to the successes of government social protection programs for rural women, and the need for more targeted support for young urban women.
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- Roli Asthana, United Nations
- Erik Berglof, Chief Economist, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
- Takahiro Sawayanagi, Advocacy Officer, Plan International Japan
- Hans Timmer, Chief Economist, South Asia, World Bank
- Moderator: Charity Troyer Moore, Scientific Director, Inclusion Economics at Yale University
How do we translate economic research into systemic change that transforms women’s economic and political status in the region? The policy panel on day 1 of the conference discussed how our actions can drive forward positive change for women.
One important theme that came out of the discussion was that of starting at home: organizations seeking to promote gender inclusivity and female empowerment must first look at their policies, equity, and the very composition of their advisory boards. They cannot advise institutions on creating gender-sensitive policy without women sitting at the decision-making table. Beyond this, the panel discussion brought to the forefront the tension between supply- and demand-side constraints to female employment: highlighting how, among others, job scarcity and restrictive gender norms are factors keeping many women in the region out of the labor force – with experts expressing differing views on the relative importance of both.
WATCH THE POLICY PANEL
How are gender norms perceived?
The second keynote was delivered by David Yanagizawa-Drott, Professor of Economics at the University of Zurich. He posed the question: “if restrictive gender norms are so central to the limitation of economic opportunity for women, what do we know about how widely these views are held, and do societal norms reflect the typical individual beliefs of men in society?” Using survey data collected in 60 countries worldwide, he established that societal norms are not direct reflections of individual beliefs – presenting four stylized facts:
- Support for basic rights for women is universally underestimated.
- Men’s support for basic rights for women is more underestimated than women’s support.
- Support for affirmative action for women is underestimated in low-gender-equality countries and overestimated in high-gender-equality countries.
- Men’s support for affirmative action for women is more underestimated than women’s support in almost all countries. In low-gender-equality countries, both men’s and women’s support are underestimated, while women’s support is overestimated and men’s support is not misperceived in high-gender-equality countries.