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Contact: Holly Shulman email@example.com +1-202-674-8757
Analysis Also Found Governments’ Pandemic Recovery Policies Not Focused Enough on Women
WASHINGTON—Women have faced disproportionate costs to their livelihoods and health from the COVID-19 crisis, a large-scale analysis of hundreds of studies from around the world found.
Conducting original data analysis, as well as drawing on findings from more than 400 studies released since the pandemic began, researchers with the Center for Global Development's COVID-19 Gender and Development Initiative aimed to determine the overall picture of how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted women in low- and middle-income countries.
“What was anecdotal is now increasingly backed up by rigorous data and evidence: women have been disproportionately hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic - whether it’s the operation of their businesses, their earnings, or their own safety and security,” said Megan O’Donnell, who leads the Center for Global Development’s COVID-19 Gender and Development Initiative, a research hub that aims to promote gender equality and long-term prosperity in low- and middle-income countries by informing global and national decision makers' policy responses to the current pandemic and future crises. “The evidence and data to date suggest that the pandemic and resulting global recession have exacerbated pre-existing gender inequalities - including in low- and middle-income countries.”
In their review, the researchers found that COVID-19 has disproportionately hurt women’s economic standing, and that unlike in past crises where typically men’s employment has suffered more, early evidence on COVID-19 reflects disproportionate impacts on women’s employment, working hours, and wages relative to those of men.
Many economic sectors that women dominate have been harder hit than those that men dominate. Women-owned firms are concentrated in consumer-facing sectors where the demand shock has hit hard, and women are often overrepresented in industries such as tourism, transport, entertainment, cleaning and domestic services whose activities were limited by COVID shutdowns (ILO 2020g; UNDP 2020a).
Women have lost their jobs at greater rates than men. The employment to population ratio fell 2.6 percent for women compared to 1.8 percent for men in low-income countries. The employment loss measured in working hours for women worldwide was 5.0 percent in 2020, versus 3.9 percent for men (ILO 2021).
Women-owned businesses shuttered at greater rates than men’s. In sub-Saharan Africa, 41 percent of women-owned businesses closed versus 34 percent for men-owned; in Latin America and the Caribbean, these figures are 40 percent versus 29 percent, and in South Asia, 51 and 45 percent, respectively (Goldstein et al. 2020).
Women are disproportionately vulnerable to increased poverty from the pandemic. An estimated 47 million additional women and girls will fall into extreme poverty as a result of COVID-19, and poverty rates for women will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2030 (UN Women et al. 2020).
Care burdens continue to pile up for women. Studies in diverse settings such as Colombia, Lebanon, Nigeria, and India indicate women are shouldering up to several hours of additional care work per day. In a survey across Asia and the Pacific, 63 percent of women reported an increase in domestic work, compared to 59 percent of men (UN Women 2020).
In their review, the researchers found that women’s health was directly and indirectly harmed due to the COVID-19 crisis more than their male counterparts:
Violence against women increased. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of studies documenting the impact of the pandemic on violence against women and children point to an increase in at least one measure of violence (Peterman et al., 2020; Peterman and O’Donnell, 2020a; Peterman and O’Donnell, 2020b).
Mental health issues impacted women more than men. In a review of 98 studies across diverse geographic settings that compared mental health status and outcomes between men and women during the COVID-19 pandemic, over 80 percent indicated that women were experiencing greater adverse mental health effects—including higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and fear of COVID-19 than men (EMERGE, 2020).
Women experienced restricted access to sexual and reproductive health services. While the magnitude of this problem varied across countries, the research finds that in many countries access to contraception, antenatal care, and attended births declined more than 10% during the pandemic (Krubiner et al., 2021).
“COVID-19 wasn’t the only threat this pandemic posed to women’s health,” said Carleigh Krubiner, a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who conducted the health analysis. “We must also think about the indirect health impacts of the pandemic on women and girls, including more limited access to a range of essential health services like contraception and exacerbated harms related to gender-based violence and mental health issues. It will be years before we truly know all the ways this pandemic has set women’s health back.”
The researchers also reviewed national policies announced by governments around the world to date in response to the pandemic and found that very few (less than 20 percent) of economic relief and recovery policies were designed to address women’s needs and constraints.
“Gender gaps will not disappear with the distribution of vaccines,” said O’Donnell. “COVID-19 has exacerbated long-standing gender inequalities, and - if governments don’t act - could have far-reaching negative impacts on women’s health and economic standing for decades.”
Fortunately, when donor institutions like the World Bank and other regional development banks support governments in COVID response, CGD research finds more attention given to gender inequities. But more research is needed to understand the impact that both national policies and donor investments are having on women and girls.
The researchers recommend that in order to close gender gaps exacerbated by the pandemic, global decision-makers should prioritize:
Cash: Because the economic effects of the crisis will long outlast COVID-19’s direct health effects, governments and donors should continue to provide cash transfers to vulnerable populations, placing a priority on targeting women.
Care: Governments and donors should strengthen labor market policies and programs to ensure they benefit women, including by prioritizing investments that reduce and redistribute women’s unpaid care work.
Data: Governments and donors should monitor and evaluate the benefits of COVID-19 mitigation and recovery measures on women and girls, as well as strengthen broader data systems to ensure they reflect women’s and girls’ lived realities.
Leadership: Women must be elevated into more leadership roles and have a greater voice in policy decision-making to strengthen response and recovery strategies.
To read the four new studies from the Center for Global Development – The Impacts of Health Crises on Women & Girls: How Historical Evidence Can Inform Assessment and Recovery through a Gender Lens, Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment in the COVID-19 Context, Addressing the COVID-19 Crisis's Indirect Health Impacts for Women and Girls, and The Gendered Dimensions of Social Protection in the COVID-19 Context – visit www.cgdev.org/covidandgender.
By Mark Lowcock and Masood Ahmed
Countries risk a ‘dangerous divergence’ in economic fortune unless more is done to help
At the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank this week, we can expect measures to support low- and middle-income countries’ pandemic recovery that are laudable but fall well short of what is required.
One likely outcome will be an allocation of up to $650bn in IMF special drawing rights, the fund’s reserve currency that is used to supplement members’ official reserves. An extended pause on debt service payments for the poorest countries and a commitment from wealthy nations to help finance the global distribution of Covid vaccines will probably also be agreed.
All these measures will be welcome. But they will be only marginally helpful for countries where the end of the pandemic remains far off. They certainly will not prevent IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva’s warning of a “dangerous divergence” between economies from becoming a reality.
An unprecedented cache of documents shows that Chinese loan contracts have unusual secrecy provisions, collateral requirements, and debt renegotiation restrictions.
A new study and dataset released today reveals previously unknown details about China—the world’s largest official creditor—and its lending practices to developing countries.
How China Lends finds that Chinese state-owned banks are muscular, commercially savvy lenders that use contracts to position themselves as “preferred creditors,” seeking repayment ahead of other commercial and official lenders. They often do so by asking borrowers for an informal source of collateral—bank accounts with minimum cash balance requirements that lenders can seize in the event of default—and prohibiting borrowers from restructuring their Chinese debts in coordination with other creditors.
“All the pitched arguments over China's foreign lending have played out in a fact vacuum,” said Georgetown Law Professor Anna Gelpern, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), “with hardly any of China's debt contracts—and precious few of other countries' bilateral contracts—ever published or studied.”
The How China Lends study, carried out by researchers from AidData at William & Mary, the Center for Global Development, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, examined 100 Chinese loan contracts to 24 countries, many of which participate in the Belt and Road Initiative. The analysis is the first systematic evaluation of the legal terms of China’s foreign lending, and the newly published contract dataset, assembled by AidData, is the largest source of debt contracts between Chinese government lenders and developing country borrowers. These documents were difficult to access, but over a 36-month period AidData collated the contracts by conducting an in-depth review of the debt information management systems, official registers, and parliamentary websites of 200 borrower countries.
The researchers benchmarked the Chinese contracts against 142 publicly available contracts with other major lenders and they found several unusual features in Chinese contracts:
China’s contracts contain unusually broad confidentiality clauses, which prevent borrowers from revealing the terms or sometimes even the existence of the loans. The researchers also found that China’s contracts have become more secretive over time, with a confidentiality clause in every contract in the dataset since 2014. These confidentiality restrictions hide loans from the people who are bound to repay them via taxes.
The contracts also contain provisions that position Chinese state-owned banks as senior creditors whose loans should be repaid on a priority basis. Nearly a third of the contracts required borrowing countries to maintain significant cash balances in bank or escrow accounts. These informal collateral arrangements put Chinese lenders at the front of the repayment line, since banks can simply dip into their borrower’s accounts to collect unpaid debts.
China’s contracts also give it broad latitude to cancel loans or accelerate repayment if it disagrees with a borrower’s policies. For example, China Development Bank (CDB) treats termination of diplomatic relations with China as an “event of default”. Expansive cross-default and cross-cancellation provisions also provide Chinese lenders with more leverage over borrowers and other creditors than was previously understood.
According to Sebastian Horn, an economist at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, another key finding of the study is that “Most Chinese loan contracts contain ‘No Paris Club’ clauses, which prohibit countries from restructuring Chinese loans on equal terms and in coordination with other creditors.” This approach to foreign lending effectively gives Beijing sole discretion to decide if, when, and how it will grant debt relief. Christoph Trebesch, also of the Kiel Institute, adds that “China’s practices complicate debt relief efforts in countries that are in financial distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic or other factors.”
According to Scott Morris, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, “China has struck a cooperative tone on debt issues in the G20, but some of the provisions in these contracts clearly are at odds with the objectives of the Common Framework on debt that G20 ministers agreed to six months ago.”
The authors of How China Lends warn that restrictions on debt transparency make it difficult for citizens in borrower countries and creditor countries to hold their governments accountable, and call for public debt to be made public.
Brad Parks, AidData’s Executive Director and a co-author of the report, says that “by shielding their contractual arrangements from public scrutiny, Chinese state-owned banks have made it difficult for other lenders to know if they are positioning themselves at the front of the repayment line.” Hidden debts to China have also put developing countries—with insufficient foreign currency to repay all of their outstanding obligations to foreign creditors—in an equally challenging position. According to Parks, “non-Chinese creditors are increasingly reluctant to renegotiate repayment terms until they know more about China’s claims.”
The full report is available at: https://www.cgdev.org/publication/how-china-lends-rare-look-100-debt-contracts-foreign-governments. An online repository of digitized copies of the original contracts can be accessed and searched by lender, borrower, sector, and contract clause at https://www.aiddata.org/how-china-lends.
Center for Global DevelopmentJeremy GainesCommunications Managerjgaines@cgdev.org+1.202.416.4058
AidData at William & MaryAlex WooleyPartnerships and Communications Directorawooley@aiddata.org+1.757.585.9875
Kiel Institute for the World EconomyMathias RauckPress OfficerMathias.Rauck@ifw-kiel.de+49 (431) 8814-411
Peterson Institute for International EconomicsMichele HellerMedia Relations and Communications Managermheller@piie.com
Georgetown LawTanya WeinbergDirector of Media Relationstanya.firstname.lastname@example.org+1.202.577.7827
From the article, which cites CGD's procurement work:
"Across low- and middle-income countries, the prices of essential medicines, such as cancer treatments, HIV antiretrovirals, and antibiotics, display substantial variations, with the locally observed prices sometimes being many times higher than the lowest international reference level for generic equivalents. Chalkidou et al. (2020) show that some purchasers in low- and middle-income countries pay up to 30 times the minimum international reference price for basic generic medicines, such as paracetamol, insulin, and omeprazole. High prices, in turn, deplete already-limited public health budgets and generate shortfalls in access, especially for the poorest and neediest members of society."
"Existing economic research has addressed the issue of affordable access to drugs in developing countries mostly from a patent protection angle. Several authors have analysed the trade-off between the potential costs of restrictive patent policies (due to the higher prices resulting from monopolistic pricing policies) and the potential benefits related to the faster diffusion of new drugs to markets enjoying stronger patent protection (Chaudhuri et al. 2006, Kyle and Qian 2014, Cockburn et al. 2016)."
Contact: Jeremy Gaines
Center for Global Development
+1 (202) 416-4058
With both President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson announcing increased contributions to COVAX, the Center for Global Development’s executive vice president Amanda Glassman, a global health expert and former principal technical lead for health at the Inter-American Development Bank, released the following statement:
“The Biden Administration's move to commit $4 billion to COVAX is a long-overdue step toward ending the pandemic globally, especially since the rise of new variants means that the only way to truly control COVID is to make sure everyone can get vaccinated—not just people in rich countries.”
“Timing is everything. We'd be in a different situation today if COVAX had been fully funded last March. But the world is better off than it was yesterday thanks these big new commitments from the US and UK. Rich countries should do more, because the sooner the funding is available, the sooner we can start dealing with problems like distributing vaccines around the globe.”
“Along with COVAX, wealthy countries need to commit to sharing excess vaccines. Overbuying made sense given how uncertain vaccine development is, but countries like the US, Canada, and the UK are soon going to have more vaccines than people. If we're serious about ending the pandemic, wealthy countries need to make plans now so they’re ready to share surplus vaccines as soon as their own populations are vaccinated.”
From the op-ed:
While it’s still too soon to know definitively what’s happening across the globe to women during the pandemic, data from 26,000 business owners and managers collected across 50 countries revealed that women were more likely than men to close their businesses as a result of the crisis. In sub-Saharan Africa, 43% of women-owned businesses closed versus 34% of those owned by men, and in Latin America and the Caribbean, these figures were 39% versus 29%.
And wage workers aren’t doing any better. Though during past economic crises men’s employment suffered while women were able to enter the workforce or increase the amount of paid work they did to supplement household income, this time early evidence suggests that women in the formal sector have been hit hardest and are now crowding into the informal sector, with those previously working informally turning to subsistence production — farming that may cover households’ food needs but doesn’t bring in income.
From the op-ed:
Because Europe and Africa are interconnected and interdependent. They need each other to create jobs and growth on both continents, to ensure a post-pandemic economic recovery and to tackle climate change.
The EU remains the leading aid, trade and investment actor across the continent. African exports of raw materials, chemicals and petroleum products, minerals and metals as well as fishery and agricultural goods, continue to be the mainstay of many European industries.
Yet, even if Africa’s once dynamic growth rates have been slowed by the pandemic, its economic potential, youthful population and plans to build an African Continental Free Area, (AfCFTA) modelled on the EU single market, will intensify international rivalry and competition – especially between Europe and China.
EU policymakers insist that their policies are better than Beijing’s, and that while China’s investments under the belt and road initiative grab global attention, they are worsening Africa’s already high debt burden and making debt-relief measures even more urgent.
From the article:
"The disproportionate effects of containment measures on female-dominant sectors, the heavier role of women in child and elder care, and an uptick in domestic violence are all behind COVID-19's female recession, according to Megan O'Donnell, CGD's deputy director for gender.
'COVID-19 is not just a short-term health crisis. The economic effects of this crisis are going to far outlast the direct health effects for women,'" O'Donnell said.