Pandemic and Women's Finances in Latin America and the Caribbean

A recent report by ECLAC remarks that the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has produced a negative impact on the work opportunities and labor conditions for women in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Woman Post | Catalina Mejía Pizano

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This situation at the same time caused a step back of more than a decade regarding the progress that had already taken place in terms of female participation in the labor market.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Latin America and the Caribbean in a context of reduced economic growth and increasing poverty and inequality. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) recently mentioned that the economic and social effects of the pandemic would significantly affect women’s financial autonomy. This is why the region needs to direct efforts towards preventing the current social and economic crisis from worsening the rates of poverty and gender inequality in Latin America.

According to ECLAC, the female participation rate in the labor market was at 46% in 2020, and for men, it was 69%. It is also estimated that unemployment for women reached 12% in 2020, a percentage that would rise to 22% if we were to assume the same female participation in the labor market from 2019. Additionally, in 2020 there was a high percentage of women who had to quit their jobs search to take care of children or home duties.


It is also worth highlighting that 56.9% of women from Latin America and 54.3% from the Caribbean are currently employed in sectors that had a larger negative effect in terms of income due to the pandemic. Latin American women make part of the first line of defense against COVID-19. In terms of the population who works for the health sector, 73.2% are women, who have had to face extreme working conditions such as long hours of work, as well as higher exposure to the virus. 

The situation of women in the health sector is aggravated by a regional context in which gender wage discrimination persists since the income of women who work in health is 23.7% below the income of men that have occupied the same positions. As mentioned by ECLAC, the region needs to implement gender affirmative actions regarding all of the economic measures taken to overcome the effects of the pandemic. The set of policies and practices are also urgent in terms of areas such as fiscal policy, labor policy, and economic policy to protect the rights of women that had been ensured in the last decade. 

To conclude, It is fundamental for governments to start acting soon to prevent a step back in terms of gender inequalities in the short and long run in Latin America and the Caribbean. Particularly, counter-cyclical fiscal policies are needed due to their potential to sustain demand, create employment, and ameliorate the opportunities for women. ECLAC also mentioned the importance of promoting commerce, tourism, and services, since all of these are sectors that can potentially help to generate employment opportunities for women affected by the pandemic. Investing in the care economy is also vital as well as raising awareness of its importance within society.

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