A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for COVID-19
The Coronavirus pandemic has proven to be one of the most significant global healthcare crises in human history. Consequently, life across the globe has come to grinding halt as governments worldwide enforce social distancing. In Canada, schools and non-essential businesses have been closed indefinitely, and police forces are being used to ensure that citizens abide by social distancing and quarantine rules. Some non-essential workers are being told to work from home, whereas those who are less fortunate have been laid off and now face unemployment. All Canadian citizens face challenges brought upon by the virus but not all residents are met by the same number, severity, or extent of social problems. One factor that contributes to this glaring disparity is gender. Like any other emergency, disaster, or crisis, COVID-19 is experienced differently by women and gender minorities. Seeing as women and gender-minorities comprised a large portion of the people that were underprivileged, overlooked, and on the margins of our societies when the virus first hit, they are the ones who are facing the brunt of the pandemic.
During this pandemic, there have been many realizations and reality checks for many of us. How will we recover as a province both economically and mentally? An important question that many have and will eventually ask. Where will we begin to pick up the pieces? For there to be a full provincial recovery its starts with women. But are women in Canada undervalued? What systems do we have in place to begin to repair ourselves? It would seem so when requests for help from your society go without fulfillment. During the panel discussion, it was stated that as a province, a good place to start is with women and childcare. As we return to our regular routines and jobs, if childcare isn’t provided, it is next to impossible for working women to return with us. That is where a Care Economy system would come into place, ‘Care economy’ refers to the sector of economic activities, both paid and unpaid, related to the provision of social and material care. It includes responsibility for children, the elderly, and the disabled, health care, education, and as well, leisure and other personal services, all of which contribute to nurturing and supporting present and future populations. (Peng, 2018). This would benefit women of colour and immigrants who are often faced with this issue when it comes to working. We cannot begin to recover as a province if we don’t plan on including women in the recovery, the economy will collapse on itself.
Did you know it costs more to take women out of the workplace than to provide free childcare? When creating policies that aim to support and uplift communities, the government often misses the mark. These policies largely don’t account for the diaspora of vulnerable minority populations that encompass Canada. It’s not just childcare support; there is a lack of support for many underrepresented groups. The disproportionate lack of action for these communities drastically emphasized the losses faced because of this pandemic. A recent survey states that 88% of entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups (women, racialized people, people with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, immigrants, refugees, and LGBTQ2s+ people) lost contracts, customers, and clients during the pandemic. (YWCA Canada, A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for Canada: Making the Economy Work for Everyone) In total, only 34% of businesses faced any loss during the pandemic. This pandemic has impacted those unsupported by the system the most.
Other data obtained about the pandemic point out that racialized women were twice as likely to stop working because of care responsibilities due to quarantine orders. This data, though newly reported, emphasizes the exasperated conditions marginalized communities face during the pandemic because of already existing systemic issues in sectors of health, jobs, wages, education, housing, homelessness, mental health support. Women occupying various social intersections which contribute to their marginalization already bear the burden of providing, on average, 1.5 hours per day of unpaid care work. They are thus likelier to be subject to these failures’ repercussions. The whole population suffers because of our systemic failures. Whether you’re a vulnerable person or not, the economic consequences of failing underrepresented communities is a more significant consequence on everyone. When the economy suffers, everyone suffers. Therefore, for these communities to survive unscathed by the pandemic, they require additional support. The pandemic only emphasized this existing gap in equality, but many of these businesses won’t be able to last because of how this gap continues.
The effects of Covid19 has disproportionately affected vulnerable individuals and communities more than anyone else. Systemic issues faced by women, youth, people of colour, and many other vulnerable groups were magnified during these times. Issues that have systemically plagued us have only exacerbated during these times, causing severe difficulties in survival and recovery. At this point, a question arises; how are we going to recover from the Covid-19 crisis? Who should be at the table when economic recovery is at the base of discussion? Who is being represented at these discussions? How will decisions made affect marginalized groups, and who are we even making these decisions for? Youth have been present at these tables and discussion; however, as Gladys mentioned, they are ranging from well off families or the privileged sector of our society. We need to hear from youths emanating from vulnerable communities. They need to be at the forefront of all recovery-related discussions. We need to create forums, programs, seminars, and safe spaces for youths to express their needs, feelings, and concerns about the recovery in terms of education, employment, business, life, mental health, and social services. Young people are crucial for economic recovery. They will help rebuild Canada’s economic foundation headed towards growth and prosperity for the entire country.
The forum was based on a motto: There is NO recovery without SHE recovery, and there is no SHE recovery without CHILD recovery. Young children and young adults are being neglected within the recovery phase. Yes, we need more women, people of colour, diverse groups, vulnerable individuals and multiple genders at these tables; however, where is our next generation of leaders? Why are young people being neglected in these discussions? The answer is the lack of investments in growth and prosperity. As Gladys mentioned, “There is a gap in engaging youth within recovery and rebuilding strategies post COVID-19. Young people and students are missing at these decision-making tables “. Students, young people, especially young women, were one of the hardest hit groups through the crisis, facing severe job loss, steep reductions in working hours, layoffs, an increase in unemployment rates within a few months, disruptions to education, and facing mental health crisis. Most students will face inequities and lack of skill training upon graduation. Young people will have to invest more time rebuilding their lives when entering the job market. The city and province will have to create more support systems to deal with youth homelessness, mental health intervention, affordable housing for young adults, and specific recovery supports and programs for youth deriving from racialized and low-income communities.
The situation Ontario is currently in could have been avoided if our systems proportionately and equally benefitted everyone. It’s essential to recognize that we have holes in our systems because they were never built to cover everyone. Moreover, during the pandemic, there continues to be a complete lack of acknowledgement and support for issues facing underrepresented groups. As a result, the people who need the most support are entirely left behind because of systemic failures. It’s impossible to think of economic recovery when our system is designed to collapse on marginalized communities. Organizations like Sesheme work tirelessly to build strong and inclusive communities for vulnerable populations, in efforts to address the issues outlined. We have also created safe and sensitive spaces for young women to share their feelings, needs, and aspirations and analyze solutions for better guidance and support to our future generations. A task as heavy as building just and equitable systems should not be tasked solely to local community organizations; the government must put in the work too to create large-scale, positive, and sustainable change.
A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for Canada: Making the Economy Work for Everyone:
Sultana, A. & Ravanera, C. (2020, July 28). A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for Canada: Making the Economy Work for Everyone. The Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) and YWCA Canada.Retrieved from: www.feministrecovery.ca
Why Canadians Should Care about the Global Care Economy
Peng, I. (2018). Why Canadians should care about the global care economy. Retrieved 17 August 2020, from https://www.opencanada.org/features/why-canadians-should-care-about-global-care-economy/#:~:text=’Care%20economy’%20refers%20to%20the,of%20social%20and%20material%20care.
A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for Canada Zoom Session
Please view the links below for resources related to recovery and support in the following sectors: