Female poverty rate in South Asia projected to rise due to COVID-19: UN

Koyna Mitra 7th September, 2020

The female poverty rate in South Asia expected to reach 13 per cent in 2021 (Source: Diya Chaudhuri)


According to the new data released by the UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the COVID-19 pandemic will disproportionately increase the poverty rate for women and will widen the gap between women and men who live in poverty.


The poverty rate for women, between the year 2019 and 2021, is projected to increase by 9.1 per cent due to the pandemic. It was initially expected to decrease by 2.7 per cent.

The reports by UNDP show that women of the reproductive age will disproportionately be affected in this pandemic. The reports state that by 2021, for every 100 men aged 25 to 34 living in extreme poverty, there will be 118 women, a gap that is expected to increase to 121 women per 100 men by 2030.


The largest increase in extreme poverty will likely be seen in Central and Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, which is already home to 87 per cent of the world’s extreme poor. After years of making significant gains in poverty reduction, South Asia is projected to experience a resurgence in extreme poverty. By 2030, for every 100 men aged between 25 and 34 living in poverty in Southern Asia, there will be 129 poor women, an increase from 118 in 2021.


The same report states that the expected rise in poverty in South Asia as a result of the economic fallout of the pandemic showcases the vulnerability of women and girls living in households that have only recently been able to escape poverty. The female poverty rate in South Asia is now expected to reach 13 per cent in 2021 which during the pre-pandemic scenario was expected to reach 10 per cent.


The UNDP report projects 18.6 per cent of the world’s poor women and girls living in South Asia by the year 2030.


According to a report by The UN Women, on a global level, the pandemic will push 9.6 crore people into extreme poverty by 2021, 4.7 crores of whom will be women and girls. This will increase the total number of women and girls living in extreme poverty to 43.5 crores. The numbers are not expected to revert to pre-pandemic levels until 2030.


The data is alarming; however, the studies claim that it will only take 0.14 percent of global GDP to lift the world out of extreme poverty by 2030; and USD 4,800 crores to close the gender poverty gap.


UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner said in a Press release by UN Women, that if the governments of these countries implement a comprehensive strategy aimed at improving access to education and family planning, fair and equal wages, and expanding social transfers, more than about 10 crore women and girls will be capable of poverty.


Steiner added that women are more likely to be financially affected by the COVID-19 crisis because they generally don’t get covered by social protection measures when they lose their source of income. He urged the governments to invest in reducing gender inequality as it is the only way to reverse the impact of the pandemic on poverty.


The UNDP report states recommendations of actions for the governments to take in order to prevent women from falling behind permanently because of the pandemic. The recommendations include the introduction of economic support packages for vulnerable women to countries, increasing social protection measures targeting women and girls and expanding research and data available on the gendered impacts of COVID-19.


(Source: The Economic Times, The Hindu, UN Women)

Edited by Swikruti Kar

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