Back to search

UNDP calls for temporary basic income to help world’s poorest women cope with effects of COVID-19 pandemic

A temporary basic income (TBI) given specifically to hundreds of millions of women in the world’s developing countries could prevent rising poverty and widening gender inequalities during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Protecting Women's Livelihoods in Times of Pandemic: Temporary Basic Income and the Road to Gender Equality.

The new report  says that a temporary basic income for hundreds of millions of women in developing countries could prevent rising poverty and widening gender inequalities during the pandemic. 

  • The report, released ahead of International Women’s Day, shows that a monthly investment of 0.07 per cent of developing countries’ gross domestic product (GDP) could provide reliable financial security to 613 million women living in poverty

"Governments can take action right now by redirecting just 0.07 percent of their GDP each month directly to women experiencing severe socio-economic stress, because a monthly basic income could ensure survival in these unprecedented times,” said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. “The benefits of such a meaningful investment could not only help women and their families absorb the shock of the pandemic, but also empower women to make independent decisions about money, livelihoods and life choices.“

  • There is an urgency to act immediately to ensure women can access social protection schemes, say the report authors, as the crisis has affected women differently than men.
  • Jobs done by women around the world tend to be lower paid, if paid at all, often lack social protection and safety nets, and are predominately in the sectors shuttered by the global lockdowns like care work and hospitality.
  • Women have also taken on a greater share of unpaid work, have been increasingly pushed out of the labour force, and have faced a surge of domestic violence with lockdowns forcing them to stay in unsafe homes.
  • Millions of women work in the informal sector or are in unpaid labour, often the primary caregivers to the children and elderly. Even if their countries have social protection schemes, they can fall through the cracks because they don’t qualify. 

Gender inequality persists through uneven income and unequal divisions of labour, and while TBI is not a fix-all solution, it does help women increase their options right now during this crisis,” said Raquel Lagunas, UNDP Gender Team Director. “TBI provides a period of economic stability so women can organize their lives to suit their own interests and needs, and participate more fully in society.”

Did you know: Worldwide, women do about 12.5 billion hours of unpaid work every day,6 which amounts to almost US$11 trillion a year. On average women spend 2.4 more hours per day than men on unpaid care and domestic work; among people who participate in the paid economy, women spend an average of 4 hours more per day than men on paid and unpaid work combined.

MORE from UNDP and  Further reading from UNCCD library   ; Publications, articles and more about gender and land, gender equality, gender and land rights, and Fact of the month Word of the week  on gender

  1. Although women constitute 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, many of them are without ownership of the lands they work in and neither do they have an authoritative voice in local governments.
  2. "Land belongs to the man, the produce in it to the woman.” All over the world, women farm land to both feed their families and make a living – yet they have no say in how it is managed. This common African saying perfectly embodies women’s struggle to own and inherit property throughout history. (Source)
  3. It is also well documented that granting women the right to control assets, most notably land, may result in more bargaining power for them within their households. The implications of this include greater agency in household and marital matters and investment in better agricultural practices. Research has found that women’s ability to own and manage land is positively associated with their access to finance. More broadly, land rights may play an important role in establishing more equal gender relations within households and boosting women’s status in society. (Source)

  undp gender covidundp gender