COVID-19, Livelihoods and Inequality: Poor Female -Headed Families Fare Worse in Kenya and Ethiopia

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Makate, Marshall
Makate, Clifton
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African Economic Research Consortium
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected men and women differently in Kenya and Ethiopia, both at the household level and within the workplace. Like in many countries,this pandemic is being experienced againstthe backdrop of existing social and economic disparities. Over the last few decades, there has been tremendous progress and commitment by the governments of Kenya and Ethiopia in tackling poverty through crafting policies that promote economic opportunities and encourage inclusive growth for everyone. However, this progress has not been shared equally across the board as inequalities in social and economic dimensions persist (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 2020; World Bank, 2020). The samepolicy strategies aimedatreducingpoverty andincreasingurbanizationand rural development could increase inequalities. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty is thought to be on the rise again, with women, children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups of the population bearing the bigger brunt. The growing evidence on the impact of the pandemic across countries points to rising inequality levels, mostly precipitated by the subsequent lockdown measures. While the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health measures implemented to minimize its spread have affected every citizen in Kenya and Ethiopia, individuals living in female headed families, with children and those living in rural areas are thought to have suffered the most. The implementation of containment measures such as lockdowns and curfews made it difficult for people especially those living in rural areas to move around make a living. With many of these people relying on mobility, seasonal and migrantwork, andremittances tomake endsmeet,theCOVID-19pandemicpresented a huge negative shock to their livelihoods. In other coun¬tries including Kenya and Ethiopia, there has been a massive return of migrants to rural areas, mostly due to loss of employmentin urban areas.Disruptions to seasonal migration and remittance flows to rural areas represents a shortfall in crucial financing lifeline for many poor people living in rural communities (Ochieng, 2020).