Digital Cash Transfers in Times of COVID-19: Opportunities and Considerations for Women’s Inclusion and Empowerment

Around the world, women are being hit hard by the economic impacts of COVID-19 (coronavirus). As the fallout from the pandemic deepens, so do the short and longer term effects on women’s empowerment. The insecurity and lack of social protection that characterize informal, temporary, unpaid labor put millions of women and their families at extreme risk: in many developing countries, most women in paid work were working informally – around 95 percent in Asia and 89 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa. If the risks faced by women are not actively addressed, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis is likely to widen already existing gender inequalities, including the loss of livelihoods, threats to sexual and reproductive health, the burden of care, and increased violence against women at home. Governments and multilateral organizations are rapidly developing and expanding social protection systems to reach more people more quickly with the assistance they need to weather and recover from the crisis. As of July 10, 200 countries and territories have expanded or introduced social protection measures in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus), which is a more than four-fold increase reaching 915 million new beneficiaries since March, 2020. Social assistance is already being adapted in several ways: coverage has been expanded, benefits increased, and administrative requirements made simpler and more user-friendly, which are all welcome developments. In many countries, governments are opting to digitize government-to-person (G2P) payments to limit the risks of personal contact and crowding when people collect their assistance, and to rapidly disburse funds at an unprecedented scale.

Themes: Beneficiary Identification, Targeting, Onboarding, COVID-19, Financial Inclusion, Women’s Empowerment