“Building Bridges, Not Walking on Backs”. As the first government to come up with a feminist economic stimulus package, the state of Hawaii in the United States is being scrutinized as an example. From June 2020, it began reflecting on targeted measures, drawing on a report by Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women . Among the truly disruptive measures, Hawaii proposes to increase the minimum wage to 24.80 dollars an hour for single mothers and to introduce paid maternity leave, rare in the United States. It also wants to facilitate women’s access to « green jobs »– a male stronghold– and financially help women from indigenous communities. Hawaii’s action has inspired others. The Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity to rethink what is wrong with the economy and to redistribute public money to
limit an increase in inequalities.
The other model student is Canada, where a group of researchers from the Institute for Gender and Economics (GATE) and the YWCA association devised an ideal feminist stimulus package. « We are going through a new type of recession. The pandemic affects women more than men (56% of contamination cases) because they are on the front line,” explains researcher Carmina Ravanera to Les Glorieuses. “Women are concentrated in occupations known as the 5C professions which cannot be exercised remotely and of which they represent 83% of the workforce: caring, cashiering, catering, cleaning and clerical functions. They have lost more jobs than men, they have sometimes had to withdraw from the labor market to care for children and they have been victims of domestic violence. These problems are
encountered even more by the indigenous populations who have so little access to water here. This is why it was necessary to bring together gender and intersectional data in order to study the incremental impacts on these populations and to propose a comprehensive feminist recovery plan.”
So what does the dream plan concocted by the researchers look like? Detailed in a report , it first proposes to invest in the « care » economy. « These jobs should be upgraded, because health, education and the building of families are necessary for the development of a country,” says Carmina Ravanera. « The first area is childcare in a country where access to nurseries and nannies is very expensive, costing up to $ 1,000 per month in Toronto. » It would therefore be a question of devoting 1% of the national GDP to this
industry and creating a national secretariat in charge of monitoring dedicated financial allowances throughout the country. The report then proposes to direct 2.5 billion dollars of public funds towards the existing care services by increasing wages, the number of places available in the institutions and by granting permanent residency to migrant caregivers. From a more intellectual point of view, the researchers suggest collecting data regarding the time spent on unpaid activities such as cooking, cleaning or childcare during the pandemic and to look at this data in terms of gender, ethnicity, place of residence and family composition. This would be a real consideration of household work.
In Canada, the collaborative economy and the use of freelancers have gradually worsened employment conditions. This is why the report proposes that all
workers be given at least 14 days of paid sick leave to avoid further precariousness. It would also mean lowering the eligibility criteria for unemployment insurance to 360 hours worked to cover more people and increase benefits for low-paid workers. The report is comprehensive and asks that attention be given to people with disabilities who cannot carry out their jobs because of the risk of exposure to the virus.
The third pillar of this plan is the support of small businesses founded by women and racial minorities “Even before the pandemic, we knew these companies were having a harder time getting funding. Hairdressers and shopkeepers have lost many contracts, and we want to allow equal access to funds,” adds Carmina Ravanera. The report therefore proposes to offer emergency financing to very small businesses managed by
minorities and to reserve 15% of public spending for companies set up by these groups.
Finally, in terms of strategic investments to ensure recovery, Ravanera suggests launching the construction of 125,000 low-rent accommodations and subsidizing very high-speed Internet in rural communities. This must be accompanied by a national action plan to fight against « the phantom pandemic », that is, gender violence, of which the specific problems of missing and murdered indigenous girls and the fight against racism would be part. And to ensure that this vigilance is not temporary, researchers suggest setting up an advisory council on gender equality to guide the federal government in its decisions. A sort of High Council for Equality as we have in France … but listened to by politicians this time!
A mishmash of short and long term measures, more or less costly, this ideal plan has been presented to local and national governments across the country. And you might be surprised to know that they did not dismiss it! Three major ideas were selected: the advisory council, childcare for 10$ a day and investing in small businesses run by racial minorities. The government has explicitly recognized the need to pay attention to “gender budgeting”. There are many great ideas we could draw from.
« Emmanuel Macron, fewer words, more funding for gender equality,” said the banner stretched out on the banks of the Seine at the end of June by the president of the Women’s Foundation Anne-Cécile Mailfert and the committed actress Julie Gayet .
stage are we at in France? Feminist organizations aren’t close to finding a listening ear. In June 2020, a note from the HCE advocated « equal conditionality as a way out of the crisis ». It proposed that the 460 billion euros in support measures for economic activity (direct budgetary expenditure, deferral of charges, guaranteed loans, aid to affected people) be distributed under conditions of respect for equality. The HCE hoped that aid would not be granted overwhelmingly to economic sectors where the majority of jobs are held by men. « We would have liked the percentage of women recruited in a company to be the evaluation criterion used, but this seems too ambitious to the officials with whom we discussed it … We therefore ask that the aid be at least conditional on the obtaining of a minimum score of 75 out of 100 on the Professional Equality Index for Men and
Women,” summarizes its president Brigitte Grésy.
Zealous officials could appeal to the European Union to justify their inaction. No excuse either. Two MEPs, Danish national Karen Melchior and Spanish national Lina Galvez Munoz  are also demanding that gender indicators be set up to assess the national recovery plans and verify that the measures limit the negative impact of the crisis on equality… So, where next?
 « Building Bridges, Not Walking on Backs: A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for COVID-19 », Hawai’ State Commission on the Status of Women Department of Human Services.
 « Un plan de relance économique féministe pour
le Canada : faire fonctionner l’économie pour tout le monde », The Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) et YWCA Canada, Anjum Sultana et Carmina Ravanera, juillet 2020.
 « L’impact du Covid-19 sur l’emploi des femmes », la Fondation des femmes avec la Région Ile-de-France, 29 mars 2021.
 « Hommes femmes, et si le plan de relance européen finançait aussi l’égalité ? », Public Sénat, 6 mars 2021.