Not entirely a “she-cession” but globally women are the key to economic recovery

Advanced economies in Europe and North America are finally emerging after a year of COVID-19 lockdowns largely due to mass vaccinations, while populations in Africa and hard-hit South Asia and Latin America grapple with both vaccine access and labor informality. In a year mired by uncertainty, the economic and societal shocks of the pandemic impacted women and men differently—across the world, women were more likely to lose jobs, cut back paid hours worked, and became the default childcare providers in households.

In much of the world, women were left with no choice. In the United States, the pandemic erased the strides women had made in labor force participation rates since the 1960s.  By 2019, American women made up more of the workforce than men (approximately 50.04 percent of payrolls). [1]  Today, American women’s labor force participation stands at 57.4 percent which is lower than the pre-pandemic 59.2 percent in February 2020 and the lowest level since December 1988. [2] It is true that women’s employment suffered because many works in the services sector which witnessed hard hits in retail, healthcare and hospitality, while in developing countries women face high levels of informality which lack social safety nets to buttress the financial impact of a pandemic.

Last summer, an analysis by the McKinsey Global Institute showed that women comprise 39 percent of the global labor force but represented 54 percent of total job losses due to Covid-19. Many women’s choices disappeared as the pandemic created a childcare and education crisis with disruptions to everyday life.

Reactivating the economy with women in mind in a post-COVID world

Unemployment impacts men and women differently because society expects men to work and be the breadwinners, while women even with similar education levels as partners or husbands spend more time caring for the household. Perhaps it can be said that unemployment is shaped by gender, class, and social norms. While unemployment increased for those without university degrees or the ability to work from home, women and minority populations were disproportionately impacted. Even prior to the pandemic, gender inequality put women under greater financial pressure with unstable work contracts and less access to education and technology than their male peers.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap 2021 report points out that the pandemic has increased the timeframe it would take to close the gender parity gap from 99.5 years to 135.6 years in terms of salary, education, and political empowerment. Overall, jobs provide people with earnings but more importantly they offer an identity that contributes to happiness and self-esteem. Covid-19 has left a void for women used to navigating a world of work instead of childcare.

The story of this pandemic is that women left the workforce independent of their education level or jobs held –at least in the United States, it appears this decision was based on whether children returned to in-person school. In Peru, children have yet to return to in-person schooling since March 2020, while other countries in the region have turned to hybrid models.  According to the International Labour Organization, approximately 13 million women in Latin America and the Caribbean witnessed their jobs vanish in 2020 due to the pandemic—with a regional total of 25 million women unemployed or out of the labor force. In developing countries, many women work informal jobs in vulnerable sectors usually earning daily wages with no sick leave or the safety net of unemployment insurance.

COVID-19 exacerbates digital biases and the gender pay gap

Additionally, women have dealt with digital biases (i.e., approximately 300 million fewer women have access to smartphones in low- and middle-income countries or 20 percent less than men according to the World Bank) in a world that overnight became more reliant on connectivity for survival coupled with the ever-present gender pay gap. Even today, in the United States women with school-aged children are slowly narrowing the gender divide and returning to work.

The pandemic accelerated the uptake of digital technologies by everyone from pre-school children to grandparents, from the “mom and pop” shop to women entrepreneurs turning to e-commerce platforms to sell goods and services, as well as the many other occupations that quickly adapted to a new normal for economic survival. With this faster than expected digital transformation, the workforce and especially women will have to adjust and gain new skills to remain competitive and stay employed.

A few years ago, McKinsey estimated that anywhere from 40 million to 160 million women would have to make occupational transitions due to automation. This holds truer today because the pandemic accelerated digitization of industries and services. Globally, policymakers are having discussions on the interplay between skills demand and the role of human capital to foster digital transformations across industries and firms.

In short, countries are reemerging at a time when technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are shaping how we live, work, and play at a faster rate than pre-pandemic levels.  Societies cannot afford to have women lag behind in terms of employment opportunities in both advanced and developing countries. In OECD countries, job growth pre-pandemic had been led by a demand surge for high skills benefitting women instead of men—partly because more women graduate with tertiary degrees than men.

In low- and middle-income countries, women entrepreneurs comprise a large percentage of the labor force. In Africa, women comprise about 50 percent of the continent’s self-employed workforce in the non-agricultural sector. [3] But the impacts of the pandemic stripped away sources of support from both high-skilled and low-skilled women essentially pushing many out of jobs and now preventing them from job seeking—limiting lifetime earnings and stunting a country’s economic growth.  Economic recovery depends on governments ensuring that women have equal access to jobs, digital connectivity, and digital skills.

JANZZ.technology is here to guide public employment services to navigate the post-COVID economic recovery by providing AI-driven digital solutions that empower women and the most vulnerable job seekers in the labor market to match their skills and talents with quality jobs.  Let’s rethink how we approach women’s labor force participation using actionable insights with non-discriminatory and unbiased jobs matching results by contacting info@janzz.technology and visiting our product site for PES.

 

 

[1] Time Magazine. Women are Now the Majority of the U.S. Workforce—But Working Women Still Face Serious Challenges. January 2020. https://time.com/5766787/women-workforce/

[2] National Women’s Law Center Factsheet. Ewing-Nelson and Tucker. April 2021. https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/March-Jobs-Day-2021-v1.pdf

[3] World Bank. Profiting from Parity: Unlocking the Potential of Women’s Business in Africa. 2019. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/31421

When cloud meets COVID: How cloud computing is transforming across sectors – especially in public services

By now we all know that when tech companies say that data is in the cloud, it has nothing to do with those white fluffy things in the sky. In fact, “cloud computing” is nothing more than a fancy marketing term designed to give users a magical feeling instead of telling them straightforward that their data is stored on the server in a data center. The use of the term first appeared in 2006 in an industry conference introduced by one of the largest tech companies. Since then, it has come into broader use. The idea of network-based computing, however, can be traced back to the 1960s. [1]

For a long time, the risks associated with using clouds have limited the widespread adoption of this technology. However, the pandemic has proven to be a strong driver for cloud adoption, as companies, especially government agencies, are increasingly investing in cloud solutions. But the risks remain. Companies and government agencies need to be aware that they could lose control of their strategic data and prepare for such circumstances. In some countries cloud service providers are required by law to allow government agencies to access data in the cloud, even if the data is located outside the country. An example of this is the U.S CLOUD Act aimed at US companies, the largest cloud providers in the market. Despite concerns about the security of information in the cloud, the latter presents itself as “the” solution that will help us through the crisis.

Online education

The Financial Times reports that more than 1.5 billion students worldwide have been kept out of classrooms by COVID-induced school and college closures. Thanks to cloud-based applications and tools, many of them have been able to continue with online lessons. Despite challenges such as insufficient access to online resources and lack of focus compared to traditional classroom situations, educators believe many of the new cloud technologies will remain post-pandemic. Hybrid approaches that mix onsite and online learning will most likely continue in the coming semesters.

Working from anywhere

Many of us have worked from home before and realized that cloud applications and services are the backbone of remote work. Nat Friedman, the CEO of GitHub, one of the largest open-source communities for software developers, explained in an interview that in the past, many of the world’s most ambitious software developers had to go to the West Coast of the U.S. to realize their dreams, but can now do so simply by going to the cloud. As he noted, GitHub’s developer community in the U.S. has shrunk by 10% in the last year, while other locations like Nigeria, Bangladesh, Egypt and Colombia have become the strongest growth areas.

This furthermore provides a novel way for companies to solve their talent shortage. Many developed countries have started hiring people from abroad for remote work, especially from countries where wages are lower on average. But the pandemic also highlighted the risks of offshoring: When call centers or data labeling companies in India closed, without computers, Internet access and security clearance employees could not work simply from home there.

Accelerated public sector investment

In many government departments, security concerns have been the main reason for reluctance to adopt clouds. However, the response to the pandemic and the increasing demand from the private sector and citizens for digital access to public services have increased the pressure to modernize applications and infrastructures. As a result, more openness and renewed interest in cloud adoption can be observed.

Government agencies use the cloud for its cost savings, scalability and rapid deployment. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 95% of new government IT investments will be as a service solution. Although COVID-19 posed a major opportunity for cloud providers, only those that are prepared can handle such unexpected spikes in demand.

At JANZZ.technology, we provide integrated labor market solutions for Public Employment Services (PES) via cloud. Through our robust and rich architecture, we can successfully manage any sudden increased load and deliver an uninterrupted user experience. By leveraging embedded machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), PES can get powerful real-time analytics on labor markets with state-of-the-art solutions, even in countries with less infrastructure.

As a Swiss company, we have a different regulatory regime than most other major vendors in the market. At JANZZ.technology, our solutions are primarily offered as SaaS in a strictly regulated, ISO 27001, CCPA and GDPR compliant private cloud environment, usually also on the territory of the country where we operate. Pandemic or not, we have long recognized the urgency of digitization transformation within public services, especially PES. And we are prepared to support PES of any size on this digitization journey.

To learn more about our cloud-based SaaS solutions for Public Employment Services (PES), please visit our product site for PES or contact us at info@janzz.technology.

 

[1] https://www.technologyreview.com/2011/10/31/257406/who-coined-cloud-computing/#:~:text=Part%20of%20the%20debate%20is,term%20to%20an%20industry%20conference