Ladies and gentlemen

I'm very pleased to be here with ILO DDG Martha Newton to introduce this webinar on Gender, Trade and Jobs in COVID times.

This webinar comes at an opportune moment. While the pandemic is far from over, we see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yet, much remains to be done.

ILO data shows the world has lost the equivalent of 137 million full-time jobs since late 2019, with low- and lower-middle-income countries hit particularly hard.

And while past recessions created larger employment losses for men than for women, this time it has been different. COVID-19 has had a disproportionately adverse effect on women's labour market outcomes. Women lost more than 64 million jobs in 2020, a 5% loss, compared to a 3.9% loss for men.

Many women work in sectors that require face-to-face communication and are not adaptable to telecommuting. That is one reason why they were hurt more by lockdowns and other health measures.  In addition, many women have significant family responsibilities that have made it difficult to work during the pandemic.  For all of these reasons, employment and income losses have been more severe for women than for men.   

Our challenge is to make sure that the recovery compensates for this expansion of gender inequality. Trade can be an important tool in achieving our goals of decent jobs, and greener, more prosperous economies that offer equal opportunities to all, and in particular to young people and to women.

Our joint research with the World Bank shows that firms engaged in international trade employ more women, pay them better, and offer better working conditions. Trade has also been instrumental in providing women with job opportunities in the formal sector in developing countries, significantly reducing participation in the informal sector's more insecure working conditions.

But we have to do more. Our research shows that women face higher obstacles than men in accessing the global market and the economic opportunities created by trade. Consider that women have less access to trade finance, and many of the products that they buy face higher tariff barriers.  It's clear that structural challenges in the global economy prevent women from reaping the benefits from trade.

The recovery offers an opportunity to address such structural challenges, and the WTO is committed to helping our Members make trade work for all.

So, how can the WTO help?

In the past 6 years, the WTO has grown from a gender-blind Organization into a gender-aware one. With the establishment of the Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender in 2020, and the new Declaration on Trade and Gender Equality, scheduled to be adopted at our 12th Ministerial Conference now scheduled for June, the WTO is on a path to become a gender-responsive Organization. 

The establishment of the Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender was a turning point in the history of the WTO. Through the creation of this Group, more than 120 WTO members have firmly put the trade and gender issue on our agenda. The Group serves as a platform to strengthen efforts by our Members to increase women's participation in global trade.

For its part, the WTO Secretariat supports Members in their work on trade and gender. We've created a specialised unit dedicated to working on trade and gender. We've launched several initiatives such as the WTO Gender Research Hub, a network of 35 experts aiming to foster research on this topic and to support the work of our Members, particularly in designing gender-responsive trade policies.

The WTO Secretariat also supports our Members by offering training on trade and gender, collecting data, and providing tools to integrate gender in their policies. One such tool will be a soon-to-be-published comprehensive database detailing and categorising all the gender provisions included in all trade agreements.

And now the WTO is joining forces with the ILO to ensure that trade contributes to an inclusive recovery. At the ILO's Global Forum for a Human-Centered Recovery last week, our Director-General Okonjo-Iweala announced that the WTO is joining the Global Call to Action for a human-centred recovery and supports a global accelerator to create jobs and enhance social protection.

This joint webinar this afternoon is part of the same effort. The ILO and the WTO have already collaborated in the past on research concerning how to make trade more inclusive; on the effects of trade on informal jobs; and, more recently, on investing in skills for inclusive growth.

Today's webinar will bring together academics as well as experts from international organisations, including from the WTO and ILO, to discuss how the pandemic has affected employment, wages, and other decent work indicators and how trade can help make the recovery more inclusive.

It will help develop a common understanding of the gender dimensions of trade, and this is something that is incredibly important for us to work together on. I very much welcome the collaboration and it's very good to be here with my friend Martha. Thanks to all the panelists today and we hope that this is the beginning of very exciting work. Thank you.




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