The coronavirus pandemic will set back the participation of Latin American women in the labour market by a decade, according to a United Nations report published on Wednesday.
The rate of women in employment in the region dropped from 52 percent in 2019 to 46 percent in 2020, said the assessment by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC, or CELAC).
In the same period, the rate of men in employment dropped from 73.6 to 69 percent.
"The pandemic will provoke a reduction in the employment levels of women that represents a regression of at least 10 years," said the report.
It said restrictions in Latin America to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus has forced women out of the labour market and that "to look after the demands of care in their homes, they will not return to job seeking."
ECLAC calculated the unemployment rate for women in the region at 12 percent but said that figure "rises to 22.2 if you assume the same level of labour participation for women as in 2019."
Regional GDP slowed by 7.7 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic, and that hit employment hard.
ECLAC estimates that around 118 million Latin American women live in poverty, an increase of 23 million from 2019.
"Women in the region are a crucial part of the front line in the response to the pandemic," said Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC's executive secretary, adding that 73.2 percent of health care workers are women.
Yet women working in health care are paid on average 23.7 percent less than men.