Centre stage: women’s empowerment during the covid-19 recovery

The study aims to develop a framework that will equip policymakers and businesses with the capacity and tools to enable better gender-sensitive policy formation during the recovery from the covid-19 pandemic in 2022. 

Start date

August 2021

End date

July 2022


Tourism has long been known to sustain precarity vis-à-vis its employment practices (Baum, 2013) and this has been made worse by the covid-19 pandemic especially with regards to women’s employment. While most people’s lives and work have been negatively affected by covid-19, it is estimated that women’s jobs and livelihoods have and continue to be overall more vulnerable to the pandemic. This is in part due to the lack of clear, concise and active gender mainstreaming initiatives in policies at all levels in both the public and private sectors. McKinsey (2020) estimated that female job loss rates due to covid-19 are about 1.8 times higher than male job loss rates globally, at 5.7 percent versus 3.1 percent respectively. In addition, women are more likely to have insecure [26.5% female/ 15.1% male] and temporary jobs [12.5% female/10.5 male], and take unpaid care work (UN Women, 2018). This suggests that the covid-19 pandemic has widened the gender gap in employment and exacerbated the already precarious working conditions. Given the broad range of micro, small and medium enterprises, intensification of work and outsourcing multi-service companies, and the competitive globalization by large companies, female inequality is mirrored in elements such as unemployment or underemployment, wage gap, contract type (part-time) and temporality (seasonal), gendered unskilled jobs, and unstructured or unpaid family work (particularly in rural context), perceiving women as an invisible, flexible and interchangeable supporters of the sector (Santero, Segovia-Pérez, Castro, Figueroa-Domecq, & Talón, 2015).

The elimination of gender discrimination at work has become a major challenge of the international political agenda, particularly as seen in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development [particularly SDG5, gender equality and women’s Empowerment and SDG 8, which regards economic growth, full employment and decent work], the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Decent Work Agenda, and statement in UNWTO and UN Women. Recovery in the tourism industry must implement a plan for equity, fair and sustainable recovery driving a circular economy (UN WOMEN, 2020). The sector has a high level of female employment [59% female workers], concentrated on part-time [33%] and temporary job contracts, lower salaries and wage gap, occupational segregation, turnover and under-representation in management positions (Baum, 2013; UWNTO, 2018).

There is a pressing need to use the pandemic as a transformative opportunity for the future (Sigala, 2020) to break gender discrimination in the tourism labour market through the formulation and implementation of targeted gender aware policies and initiatives. While small and medium enterprises are at the centre of the covid-19 crisis, women entrepreneurs are particularly in a disadvantaged position (Jaim, 2020). The covid-19 pandemic is disproportionately worsening these conditions, but there is a lack of detailed sectoral data. Evidence is needed to guide effective response.

Aims and objectives

The study aims to develop a framework that will inspire and guide key tourism sector stakeholders in the four participating countries (Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Jordan and Mexico) and beyond in promoting the development of a holistic and integrated approach utilising empirical data and information to equip policymakers and businesses with the capacity and tools to enable better gender-sensitive policy formation during the recovery from the pandemic in 2022. Framed around two-interlinked work packages (WP), the proposal is designed to achieve to following objectives:

  1. Study the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on women’s employment in the tourism sector.
  2. Identify examples of good practice in national tourism policies that consciously mainstream and integrate gender in tourism policy formation.
  3. Assist member states in implementing the UNWTO Action Plan on women in tourism through the development of targeted and adaptable actions and initiatives that empowers women.
  4. Contribute to efforts to boost women’s empowerment during the recovery from covid-19 through the development of recommendations for promoting gender inclusion in national tourism strategies and beyond.

Funding amount





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