Not in This Together: How supermarkets became pandemic winners while women workers are losing out
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Document typeBriefing paper
Inequality is worsening and exploitation of women is endemic across the global economy. While inequality of power and value was already deeply unfair before the pandemic, it has now reached shocking proportions. COVID-19 has cost global workers $3.7 trillion in lost income, and women and young workers have been hardest hit, as they are often found in the most insecure and lowest-paid jobs. Few places reveal this trend more clearly than supermarket supply chains.
In stark contrast to the escalating human misery brought by the pandemic, the supermarket sector has largely been the standout winner of the crisis. Senior executives, the largest institutional investors, and mostly wealthy shareholders of global supermarkets continue to be rewarded with business-as-usual high compensation and dividends. In fact, during the pandemic, publicly listed supermarkets distributed 98% of net profits to their shareholders via dividends and share buybacks. Meanwhile, workers and producers, especially women, across the globe – the people we call 'essential' or 'frontline' workers – have seen their incomes stagnate or even fall, while their rights continue to be violated.