Pandemic Risks Widening Gender Gaps in Georgia, Says World Bank

Georgia has experienced significant economic growth and poverty reduction in recent years, but the benefits have not been evenly distributed between men and women, according to the 2020 Georgia Gender Assessment, released today by the World Bank. Poverty rates for women vary substantially depending on educational attainment, marital status, and sociodemographic characteristics. Despite gains in gender equality, the country risks stagnation and even a reversal in some areas amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Although women in Georgia enjoy substantial access to education, it does not necessarily translate to improved skills and labor market outcomes. Despite near-universal school coverage, the education system struggles to provide quality learning and skills for boys and girls, which is reflected in Georgia’s Human Capital Index (HCI) of 0.57, implying that children achieve only 57% of their human capital potential by age 18.

“Looking forward, Georgia should prioritize actions to promote the acquisition of relevant skills and, as the report shows, to improve the ability of women to transition into labor markets and entrepreneurial activities,” said Sebastian Molineus, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus. “These priorities can expand women’s economic opportunities and empower women across other aspects of wellbeing and development.”

Women also face more limited access to economic opportunities compared to their male counterparts. Georgia’s gender gap in labor force participation stands at 19 percentage points, while the wage gap results in men earning 16 percent more than women, after controlling for differences in demographic and job characteristics. In addition, women’s occupational and sectoral segregation locks them in economic activities with lower earnings and tends to exclude them from Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. Meanwhile, limited access to finance and other barriers can limit women’s entrepreneurial potential.

“On this year’s International Women’s Day, the world celebrated women’s leadership and contributions in response to COVID-19, but the pandemic also risks overturning progress and widening existing gender gaps,” said Alan Fuchs Tarlovsky, World Bank Senior Economist.

In the Europe and Central Asia region, the pandemic has further exacerbated gender vulnerabilities, where women are faced with immense stress in balancing paid and unpaid work with family and childcare needs, as well as keeping their businesses afloat. In Georgia, recent survey evidence indicates that women have been more likely than men to leave employment since the breakout of COVID-19.

Similar to other countries, limited data is a major barrier to understanding and addressing gender-based violence (GBV) in Georgia. Available data suggests that 6% of women suffer lifetime physical and/or sexual violence from their partners. GBV is often underreported, despite progress in policies and services to combat this issue. On the other hand, gender norms that have traditionally perpetuated GBV seem to be shifting, especially among the youth.

The World Bank Group continues to support the government, civil society and other development partners in promoting gender equality for Georgia and its people.

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