Gender gap in labor market widens amid COVID pandemic

By Dilara Hamit and Aysu Bicer

ANKARA (AA) – The gender gap in labor market participation was prevalent before the coronavirus pandemic, and has now widened, even more, said an International Labor Organization (ILO) official.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, ILO Turkey Director Numan Ozcan said that during the pandemic, women were generally earning less, saving less and holding insecure jobs.

Ozcan said the effects of the pandemic on the workforce show that women's employment declined at an alarming rate.

"Women’s global labor force participation rate declined over recent decades from 50.3% in 2005 to an estimated 47.2% in 2019. The gender gap in labor force participation was 27% at the global level,” he said.

“In Turkey, the difference was about 38%,” the ILO Turkey official said.

Recent studies about the effects of the pandemic on the labor force in Turkey show the groups most adversely affected by the crisis are informal workers, women, youth and especially young women, he said.

"In the February-August 2020 period, average female employment decreased by 8.2% and male employment decreased by 6.1% in Turkey. For the same period, loss of employment among young women has reached 16%," he noted.

Pointing out that another important source of inequality among the employed is gender-based sectorial segregation, he said: "Patterns of sectoral segregation along gender lines persisted around the world.

Everywhere, sectors such as construction, transport, storage and communication are male-dominated, while health, education and other social and personal services are female-dominated.

– Informal workers hit hardest

He explained that informal workers have been one of the hardest-hit groups by anti-coronavirus measures worldwide.

"Dismissed informal workers do not receive income support and as a result inequalities between formal and informal workers are exacerbated," he said.

Noting that ILO recommends prioritizing income support measures for that group of workers, he said the global body also advocates reskilling programs so that informal workers that were dismissed can find jobs in sectors that were not hit by the pandemic.

At the global level, the ILO’s latest research predicts low impact (1.3%) in hours worked under an optimistic scenario, however, the scenario is unlikely to hold due to delays in vaccine rollouts and a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, thus, hours worked might take more time to catch up with pre-pandemic levels.

"Globally we may experience losses between 3% to 4.6% but losses are expected to be higher in Americas and Europe," Ozcan noted.

Vaccine rollout in foreign countries as well as in Turkey will prove crucial for an expected pickup in the number of tourists and an increase in exports, he added.

"However, macroeconomic instability, weak labor markets, and potential problems pertaining to vaccination efforts mean setbacks may occur during 2021," he said.