Gender-sensitive investment, essential for COVID-19 recovery in the Arab States: UN Women study

Date: Wednesday, October 13, 2021

[Press release]

Cairo - Bringing together high-level representatives from national governments, academia, civil society and the private sector, UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States released today the Regional Report “Assessing macroeconomic response policies to COVID-19 in the Arab region: what implications for women’s economic empowerment?.”

According to the study which looked at data from the first six months of the pandemic, less than 5 per cent of the overall COVID-19 response spending in the Arab States region was gender-sensitive. The biggest bulk, about 90% of the governments’ spending in response to the pandemic, was invested in protecting employment and economic activity and only 6% of spending on this pillar was gender-sensitive. The extensive stimulus spending on this pillar is expected to result in some 11-12 million jobs in the region, but women will only benefit from 18% of these jobs while bearing 41% of the job losses.

“This report, the first of its kind, provides us with evidence and knowledge on how exactly to amend our macroeconomic toolkit to accelerate economic recovery as we respond to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with an economic contraction in the Arab region estimated at 5.7%, with an overall loss in real GDP of $152 billion,” said Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen, UN Women Regional Director for the Arab States.

She referenced the “ample evidence showing that without a deliberately gender-sensitive response, COVID-19 economic recovery won’t gain the necessary speed and scale for countries in our region. Also, the crisis will put the many gains in women’s empowerment achieved in the last decades at risk, particularly women’s economic empowerment which is fundamental for overall sustainable development.” She also highlighted that “robust women’s economic empowerment and social protection systems continue to be vital to ensure long-term recovery and resilience.”

The study looks at the macroeconomic response and recovery needs for women, seeking to support policymakers in the region in identifying and maintaining investments that ensure the priorities for the advancement of women are achieved within the intended deadlines set in national development plans and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The regional report identifies dominant trends and policy priorities across different areas of interventions and looks at the potential implications gender-blind macroeconomic responses and investments would have during the first six months of the pandemic. The study covers Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

H.E. Mr. Masaki Noke, Ambassador of Japan to the Arab Republic of Egypt, underlined, “coping with the unprecedented “human security” crisis caused by COVID-19, we must work together to minimize its negative impact so that all individuals, including women and girls, can live with dignity. Globally, Japan is committed to working together with international partners and stakeholders to bring about a more inclusive and more resilient society that leaves no one behind.”

“We are happy to have partnered with UN Women to be able to contribute to such an important piece of research. We have heard often in times of crisis gender inequality is regarded as an issue of a secondary importance. Entities around the world should not forget that gender equality contributes to socio-economic stabilization, both in terms of the speed of recovery but also its inclusiveness. Our Feminist Foreign Policy in Sweden since 2014 is not there by coincidence. It rather comes as a lesson learned from many years of effort to achieve gender equality for the benefit of the society and the economy,” said H.E. Mr. Håkan Emsgård, Swedish Ambassador to Egypt.

The report was produced with the support of the “Gender-responsive Management and Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Arab States Region: From Emergency Response to Recovery and Resilience” project, funded by the Government of Japan, and the UN Women-ILO Joint Programme “Promoting Productive Employment and Decent Work for Women in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine” funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). 

Media contacts:

Diego De La Rosa | diego.delarosa(at)unwomen.org
Nourhan El-Nagdy | nourhan.elnagdy(at)unwomen.org