Mongolia was one of the first nations to implement COVID-19 containment procedures. As a result, they had miraculously limited the number of confirmed infections to an insignificant fraction of the population. Their economy did not fare as well unfortunately. The situation in the export reliant nation led forecasters to revise expected economic growth to -1 percent.
While the government quickly adopted expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, Mongolia still faces serious macroeconomic challenges, including growing national debt, declining tax revenues, and falling commodity prices. This bleak outlook, and the country’s strong measures against COVID-19, have created a challenging business environment for all Mongolian entrepreneurs, but it has been especially difficult for women.
A large majority of female workers in Mongolia is concentrated in the retail and service sectors, both of which are heavily affected by the pandemic and are sensitive to downturns in consumer spending. While the government was able to provide some relief in the form of a stimulus package to ease SME financial burdens, many female entrepreneurs have said that they were still struggling as revenue dried up.
Many women have also cited the additional burden of being primary caregivers for their families while trying to keep their businesses alive. Schools and kindergartens have been closed since January, and many families have no backup plan for childcare.
In response, The Asia Foundation’s Mongolia office recently rolled out several strategies to equip Mongolia’s Women’s Business Centre (WBC) clients to endure and operate in this environment. These include the Lotus Rapid Response Fund, which oversees the provision of critical survival tools such a emergency cash grants, a direct hotline for women experiencing psychological or social problems, and mentorships to guide businesses in the transition to online sales.
Currently, more than 6,000 women entrepreneurs are now registered with the WBC, most of whom were severely affected by the pandemic. Women entrepreneurs face unique barriers and challenges every day and they warrant dedicated support programs during extraordinary crises.