Cost-of-living crisis to hit women hardest, report says

A cost-of-living crisis, sparked in part by higher fuel and food prices, is expected to hit women the hardest, the World Economic Forum reported last Wednesday, pointing to a widening gender gap in the global labour force.

The Geneva-based think tank and event organiser, best known for hosting an annual gathering of elites in the Swiss Alpine town of Davos, says a hoped-for recovery from a ballooning gender gap hasn't materialised as expected as the COVID-19 crisis has eased.

The forum estimates that it will now take 132 years — down from 136 — for the world to reach gender parity, which the organisation defines around four main factors: salaries and economic opportunity, education, health and political empowerment.

A breakdown by country gave top marks to Iceland, followed by several Nordic countries and New Zealand, as well as Rwanda, Nicaragua, and Namibia. Germany, Europe's biggest economy, came in 10th place in the report of 146 countries. Further down the list were the world's biggest economies. The US was at number 27, China at number 102, and Japan at number 116.

Saadia Zahidi, managing director at the forum, says women have been disproportionately affected by the cost-of-living crisis following labour market losses during the pandemic and insufficient "care infrastructure" — such as for the elderly or children.

"In face of a weak recovery, Government and business must make two sets of efforts: targeted policies to support women's return to the workforce and women's talent development in the industries of the future," she said. "Otherwise, we risk eroding the gains of the last decades permanently and losing out on the future economic returns of diversity."

The report, now in its 16th year, aims to track shocks to the labour market that can impact the gender gap.

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