Look to women to drive global economic recovery from pandemic: Melinda Gates

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Efforts to help the world economy recover from the coronavirus crisis must give a lead role to women, even as the pandemic deals an especially sharp blow to their jobs and finances, philanthropist Melinda Gates said.

Recovery policies and strategies that focus on women - and do not minimise or overlook them - will prove the most successful, the co-chair of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said in an interview this week.

"They are going to be the engines of recovery, and we will build back faster and better," Gates told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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"Otherwise it's going to be a very, very long and slow recovery in country after country around the world."

Gates spoke following the publication this week of an opinion piece she wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine, in which she outlined policy proposals focused on women.

She said it was vital for policymakers to ensure emergency cash aid schemes reach women who do not have a tax number or formal identity documents.

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Stimulus programs must be designed to include the smallest businesses, which are often run by women, she wrote.

"You've got to get the money in the hands of the women... because of the sensible decisions they make," said Gates, who co-chairs the foundation with her husband, billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

In the United States, women have lost more jobs than men in the pandemic, accounting for more than half the jobs lost since February, according to a labor data analysis by the National Women's Law Center, a US women's rights non-profit.

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Some 60 per cent of job gains in June went to women, who neverthessless showed an unemployment rate of 11.2 per cent compared with 10.2 per cent among men, it said.

Women have also been putting in more time on unpaid labor at home with extra housework, child care, home schooling and caring for elderly family members.

Recent research by the Boston Consulting Group found women with children now spend an average of 65 hours a week on unpaid chores, nearly a third more than fathers.

"Woman are shouldering the burden of COVID-19 more than anyone else, and they are the ones who can help us get out of this situation as we build back," Gates said.

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"It's the women who will help us with the recovery economically, if we do the right things."

She noted that countries such as Germany and New Zealand that have fared well in the fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus have women leaders.

"They just have a different lens, an aperture of society," she said.

"Women have had to wear so many hats for so long and juggle so much that they know what everyone's up against in society."

The Gates Foundation has recently been involved in efforts to ensure the fair allocation of potential COVID-19 vaccine availability to developing countries in the face of unprecedented demand.

It also has been working on addressing inequity in global health care and treatment of infectious diseases.