We Must Prioritize Investment in Gender Data for COVID-19 Recovery and SDG Progress

Sarah Boyd July 14, 2020

As political leaders, policymakers, donors, and civil society gather virtually for the UN High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development this week, the collection and use of quality gender data must be a priority for governments’ COVID-19 policy response and recovery efforts.

Released today, our new policy brief, Invest in Gender Data for COVID-19 Recovery and SDG Progress, calls on all governments to fulfill international commitments to prioritize, use, and invest in gender data. This is the data that we need — and largely don’t have — to understand the gendered impacts of the pandemic, to inform evidence-based policies to mitigate and respond to its impacts, and to build inclusive, equitable, and gender-responsive recovery in the long term.

While we know from past experience that women are affected more than men by the social and economic impacts of infectious-disease outbreaks, we lack the comparable data we need to track the coronavirus pandemic’s long-term impacts on women and girls.

To fill this gap, our new brief lays out three actionable recommendations governments should take to ensure gender data is informing daily decisions about health, social, and economic policy.

What governments should do

1. Fulfill international commitments to prioritize gender data

Governments have made commitments to produce, collect, use, and invest in gender data in many international agreements in the past 25 years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was agreed by 189 governments in 1995. This progressive roadmap for advancing gender equality outlines detailed commitments to regularly collect, generate, analyze, disseminate and present data disaggregated by sex and other socio-economic variables, to inform decision and policy making.

Since then, governments have made many additional commitments to gender data, including in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015), the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (2015), the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data (2017), the Dubai Declaration (2018), and Voluntary National Reviews, and must be held accountable to follow through on those commitments.

Governments should:

2. Use gender data to inform COVID-19 policy responses

Without gender data, policymakers, donors, and governments will be unable to create evidence-informed policies to respond and recover from the coronavirus pandemic. For example, most countries’ responses overlook that economic consequences are likely to be far worse for women. So far, only 16 countries have reported new or amended social-protection measures that reference women. Yet gender-responsive coronavirus policies are smart economics: how economies emerge from this crisis will be dependent on how inclusive their policy responses are.

Governments should use existing data and evidence to:

  • Bring an intentional gender lens to the design of fiscal stimulus packages and social protection programs.
  • Ensure funding to respond to the increased prevalence of gender-based violence.
  • Measure and value women’s unpaid care work and draw on case studies of how countries have used this data to inform policy to design policies such as subsidized sick leave for caretakers, cash allowances and subsidies for childcare, wage subsidies for parents with young children, and more expansive social protections.

Designing inclusive policies based on quality gender data requires prioritizing gender equality and equity in the process. To improve the use of existing gender data, key measures that governments can support include:

3. Invest in closing gender data gaps

Without sustained political and financial investment in gender data, governments will not be able to fulfill their international commitments to produce gender data and use that data to inform policy responses. Despite this need for good data, there is a risk that COVID-19 will hinder progress to close these gaps. For instance, there have been funding cuts in over 53% of National Statistical Officers in low- and middle- income countries since the pandemic began, and as of July 6, only 11% of the budget for COVID19 and data projects currently underway are going to activities with an explicit gender dimension.

For instance, there have been funding cuts in over 53% of National Statistical Officers in low- and middle- income countries since the pandemic began, and as of July 6, only 11% of the budget for COVID19 and data projects currently underway are going to activities with an explicit gender dimension.[1]

Governments and donors should:

  • Invest in closing data gaps on women’s paid and unpaid work — a major barrier to recovering from COVID-19.
  • Invest in well-functioning national Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems, which are a key source of sex-disaggregated demographic data.
  • Ensure funding for gender statistics in all COVID-19 data-related projects.
  • Support and invest in financing gender data as part of the Bern Network on funding data for development.
  • Ensure funding to the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund includes the use of, and investment in, gender data.

The coronavirus pandemic has made the achievement of the SDGs more urgent and the challenges to achieving gender equality even greater. To accurately respond to women’s experiences and protect their lives and livelihoods for the short- and long-term, governments must prioritize these actions to make progress on COVID-19 recovery and the SDGs. Gender data is a critical ingredient to build a more equitable, healthy, and resilient future after COVID-19: we all must demand it.

Read the knowledge brief.


[1] PARIS21 (upcoming). Partner Report on Support to Statistics 2020, Paris. https://bit.ly/P21PRESS

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