Women are more vulnerable to falling into poverty, according to a new report by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The ECA’s flagship Economic Report on Africa, an annual publication that provides a comprehensive analysis of developments in African economies over the preceding year and makes predictions about the following year, was launched Saturday, May 14, in Dakar, Senegal. Titled, “Addressing the Challenges of Poverty and Vulnerability in the Time of Covid-19,” the report which contains an analysis of the causes and consequences of the increase in poverty during the pandemic highlighted six key findings. Regarding the plight of Africa’s women, it is noted that governments socio-economic policy responses to the pandemic have accentuated gender inequalities. In South Africa, 47 per cent of employed women in the poorest tercile reported losing their jobs compared with 36 per cent of employed men in the same tercile, reads the report. “Women without a tertiary education and employed in the poorest tercile suffered the most,” the report reads. “Among those who remained in employment, women saw a larger drop in working hours and cuts in wages than men.” As noted, women also took on more of the additional burdens of home-schooling children and related duties and of caring for the sick. How can the situation be reversed? Shedding light on why the problem crops up in the first place, Mama Keita, the director of the sub-regional office for East Africa of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, based in Kigali, told The New Times that women generally have less opportunities in various areas including education, and the labour market. She said: “This is the reality in Africa. To turn things around, we need to work on different fronts; improving economic and social opportunities available to women; improving school enrolment at all levels, not primary only, but secondary and tertiary also.” “We need to improve the quality of education that women get in order to improve their employability in high paid jobs. Women need to go to STEM. Social norms are holding women back in several African countries where, for example, girls get into early marriage at the expense of their education. There is need to sensitise leaders everywhere and at every level about this problem, Keita said. Among the key messages of the 2021 Economic Report on Africa is that most poor people move in and out of poverty because of consumption volatility arising from both exposure to inadequate ability to manage uninsured risks, which together lead to vulnerability, or an expectation of adverse consequences in the future. An estimated 51 million people on the continent could fall into poverty because of the pandemic. It is noted that today’s non-poor households may be tomorrow’s poor households, and efforts to reduce poverty in the future need to target households that are already poor as well as non-poor ones that can be prevented from falling into poverty. As regards vulnerability, it is noted that 50.2 per cent of the people in Africa most vulnerable to staying in poverty live in East Africa.