UN Calls for Temporary Basic Income to Support Women Struggling During the Pandemic
Women and girls are overrepresented among the world's poor, and the pandemic is making it worse.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) called for a temporary basic income to help millions of the world's poorest women on Thursday, after the organization released a report that said such financial support could prevent rising poverty and widening gender inequality.
The proposed temporary basic income (TBI) scheme shows that a monthly investment of 0.07% to 0.31% of developing countries’ gross domestic product (GDP) could provide reliable financial security to 613 million working-aged women.
“A temporary basic income could provide financial security in the short-term, paving the way for future investments that address systematic gender inequality,” the UNDP wrote in a statement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted women’s lives, causing financial strain from an unprecedented amount of layoffs. Additionally, the closure of schools around the world has caused an increase in care responsibilities for women who do participate in the economy, impacting the amount of hours they work and ability to generate an income as they care for children or sick relatives.
The change in women’s lives due to the pandemic has led to economic impacts that could reverse more than 20 years of progress toward gender equality, according to the report.
“Governments can take action right now by redirecting just 0.07% of their GDP each month directly to women experiencing severe socioeconomic stress, because a monthly basic income could ensure survival in these unprecedented times,” said Achim Steiner, head of UNDP.
The report also acknowledges that the TBI options it proposes are “not a one-size-fits-all emergency measure” and will allow for a scaled-up approach to cast a wide net on who qualifies. While the TBI schemes are designed to compensate for some of the loss of livelihoods in times of crises, the report draws a clear connection to its long-term counterpart, universal basic income (UBI).
“Both TBI and UBI may have the potential to ensure women’s economic security and expand women’s access to an independent source of income — though, in the case of UBI, in a more structured and stable fashion over the long run,” the report said.
Beyond ensuring economic security and financial freedom for women who are struggling, the report highlights that a TBI would narrow the gap between men and women who live in poverty, according to UN News.
In countries around the world, women and girls are overrepresented among those living in poverty — 330 million women and girls live on less than $1.90 a day, which is 4.4 million more than men, according to UN Women.
In order to create meaningful change for women living in poverty, experts say that governments must begin by reforming structures at the institutional level.
“The proposed TBI is not a substitute but a complement to global policies already in place and should be accompanied by long-term measures that target structural changes, such as legislation and tackling discriminatory social norms,” said the UNDP.