In many high-income economies, the recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented declines in women’s employment. We examine how the forces that underlie this observation play out in developing countries, with a specific focus on Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. A force affecting high- and low-income countries alike are increased childcare needs during school closures; in Nigeria, mothers of school-age children experience the largest declines in employment during the pandemic, just as in high-income countries. A key difference is the role of the sectoral distribution of employment: whereas in high-income economies reduced employment in contact-intensive services had a large impact on women, this sector plays a minor role in low-income countries. Another difference is that women’s employment rebounded much more quickly in low-income countries. We conjecture that large income losses without offsetting government transfers drive up labor supply in low-income countries during the recovery.
First version, January 2022
I14: Health and Inequality
J68: Mobility, Unemployment, and Vacancies: Public Policy
J16: Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination