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Strengthening gender measures and data in the COVID-19 era: An urgent need for change

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COVID-19 may be gender blind, but it is not gender neutral. Emerging evidence shows tremendous gender disparities in the health and socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic, with a disproportionately negative impact on women’s livelihoods, unpaid care work burden, mental health, and subjection to gender-based violence. However, a lack of gender data impedes our ability to measure, preempt, and respond. Understanding the extent of these impacts is the first step toward reversing course.

The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing gender data gaps—particularly around health, education, and economic opportunity—that undermine our ability to intentionally craft gender-responsive policies and programmes.

Filling these data gaps poses a significant challenge as many data collection efforts have been disrupted due to COVID-19 control measures, but without addressing these gender data gaps and collection obstacles, we cannot fully understand or mitigate the gendered impacts of the pandemic.

This brief calls on National Statistical Systems and survey managers, funders, multilateral agencies, researchers, and policymakers to act in five key areas:

  1. Disaggregate all COVID-19 data at a minimum by sex and, ideally, by other key sociodemographic characteristics;

  2. Collect standardized, comparable gender data in areas where women’s and girls’ lives are disproportionately affected by COVID-19;

  3. Increase the use of non-traditional gender data to fill critical gender data gaps;

  4. Rapidly expand COVID-19 related gender data availability, access, and use; and

  5. Resource and support coordinated data infrastructures to produce gender data during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.