Women’s progress in the workplace will be reversed due to the coronavirus pandemic, professional services company PwC identified in its analysis of developed countries.

PwC said in a report released the Tuesday leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8th that the pandemic is expected to bring progress on the road to gender equality in the workplace back to 2017 levels.

This emerged from PwC’s analysis of the economic empowerment of women in 33 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development for its annual Women in Work Index. The index measures female labor force participation and equality using a weighted average in five categories.

PwC applied the OECD’s 2019 unemployment rate and employment size projections, which were the most recent data available, to the results of the Women in Work index to estimate the potential impact on these countries over the period 2020-22. It found that the equality index is expected to fall 2 points between 2019 and 2021, which is below the average total of 62 points in 2017.

To reverse the damage the pandemic has to the position of women in the workplace by 2030, PwC predicted that progress towards gender equality would have to be twice as fast as it has been in the past decade.

Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC, said these results showed that “absolutely no time was to be wasted addressing the very real impact of the pandemic on women”.

Gender equality affects economic growth

Research has shown that women in the global workforce are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, as they are more likely to work in the sectors hardest hit by the crisis. A United Nations study also found that women have been shouldering the brunt of extra childcare and domestic chores since the pandemic broke out.

Hinton said that both governments and businesses have a role to play in “addressing gender inequalities in unpaid work by promoting and promoting programs such as shared parental leave, affordable childcare and flexible work arrangements.”

Larice Stielow, senior economist at PwC, pointed out that the loss of women from the workforce “not only reverses advances on the path to gender equality, but affects economic growth”.

In its ranking of the 33 countries analyzed in the report, based on 2019 data, PwC found that Iceland and Sweden have maintained their rank as top performers for women’s progress in the workplace. New Zealand moved up to third thanks to progress in closing the gender pay gap and increasing the number of its full-time women workers.

Indeed, PwC’s analysis found that increasing female employment within the OECD – spanning 37 industrialized countries – would match Sweden’s levels, increasing the gross domestic product in that group of countries by $ 6 trillion per year. Closing the gender pay gap would increase OECD GDP by $ 2 trillion every year.

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