Why women are made to rely on vulnerable work


By Maria C. Lo Bue, Research Associate at UNU-WIDER, Lecturer in the Department of Economics and Finance, University of Bari; Tu Thi Ngoc Le, Tu Thi Ngoc Le, PhD in Economics, Hoa Sen University; Manuel Santos Silva, Postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Economics, University of Münster; and Kunal Sen, Director of UNU-WIDER; Professor of Development Economics at the Global Development Institute, University of Manchester


The gender pay-gap is one of the foremost indicators of gender inequality and thus a guide for women’s economic empowerment policies. Although there is abundant data available on the phenomenon in OECD economies, this is not the case for the majority of developing countries, where most workers are self-employed and do not receive a regular wage, making it difficult to measure “pay gaps for similar work”. In a recent study for the United Nations University, we took a different approach, examining the gender gap in vulnerable employment in 101 developing countries worldwide. The results have important implications for policymakers.

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Women and conflict in West Africa and beyond

By Dr Diene Keita, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director (Programme), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Women are deliberately targeted in conflict

When conflict happens, the rule of law breaks down, freedom of movement is restricted, institutions and services are weakened, creating a lack of access to social services and information, and to food and livelihoods. This situation affects the entire population, but it disproportionately affects women. Research has shown that female-headed households are more vulnerable to stress and less capable of absorbing shocks, due to gender inequality, cultural restrictions and the feminisation of poverty. Conflict affects women and men differently and existing gender inequalities are compounded in times of conflict. Women and girls make up a large proportion of internally displaced populations (IDPs) and refugees. In Burkina Faso, 51% of IDPs are girls under the age of 14. Moreover, gender norms that associate masculinity with aggression make men more likely to perpetrate violence against those over whom they have power – usually women and children.

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Think global, act local: unpacking progress towards ending child marriage and averting the setbacks of COVID-19

By Chiara Orlassino, Research Adviser and Gabrielle Szabo, Senior Gender Equality Adviser, Save the Children UK1

In 2021, over 28,000 girls got married on International Women’s Day. Ten years from now, the number might still be as high as 26,000 – a far cry from the net zero target of Agenda 2030 (Fig. 1). The grim estimate for 2030 doesn’t even take into account the impact of COVID-19 on child marriage rates, although evidence shows that the pandemic is having a detrimental effect on girls’ rights. With only 10 years to go to 2030, we reflect on progress made on one of the most important Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and call for urgent action on inequalities in particular, which COVID-19 is exacerbating. The Generation Equality forum convened by UN Women is a timely process to prioritise gender equality in recovery efforts, building momentum around economic and political investment in girls’ rights.

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Dewi’s story: discriminatory social institutions hold women back in Southeast Asia

By Pierre de Boisséson, Economist, OECD Development Centre and Alejandra Meneses, Policy Analyst, OECD Development Centre

Human development relies on three fundamental building blocks — health, education and income. A recent report from the OECD Development Centre shows that in Southeast Asia, women’s human development remains severely constrained by discriminatory social institutions, in other words, formal and informal laws, practices and social norms. These socially and culturally embedded norms, attitudes and behaviour limit women’s ability to control and make decisions on their own health, education and access to labour opportunities. Dewi’s story is especially telling.

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Aux racines de la violence contre les femmes : comprendre ses causes profondes et comment y remédier

Par Hyeshin Park, Coordinatrice du programme Égalité femmes-hommes, et Gabrielle Woleske, Analyste de politiques publiques, Centre de développement de l’OCDE

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Chaque jour, 137 femmes sont tuées par leur partenaire ou un membre de leur famille. Une femme sur trois dans le monde a déjà subi des violences conjugales au cours de son existence. Alors que la violence à l’égard des femmes demeure un problème mondial persistant, nombreux sont ceux qui continuent de n’y voir qu’une simple affaire personnelle ou ne concernant que « certains hommes mauvais ». La nature généralisée de ce phénomène indique toutefois qu’il s’agit aussi d’un problème social collectif, prenant racine dans les normes sociales largement répandues et liées au concept de masculinité – c’est-à-dire les constructions sociales qui définissent la façon dont les hommes se comportent et, surtout, sont censés se comporter dans des contextes spécifiques pour être considérés comme de « vrais » hommes. Pour comprendre pourquoi certains hommes sont violents envers les femmes et y mettre un terme, il nous faut donc identifier et questionner les normes qui conduisent à ce type de comportements, et dépasser le discours qui voudrait restreindre ce problème à l’action individuelle de « certains hommes mauvais ».  

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A tale of two female citizens

By Mary Waithiegeni Chege, Founder and Principal, EMSI & Associates

The African Union (AU) is very clear in its identification of infrastructure as the bedrock for development in Africa. In fact, sound infrastructure has been identified as a major contributor to economic growth, poverty reduction and attainment of the sustainable development goals. While gender equality is enshrined in the AU’s constitutive documents, recognised in all the goals of Agenda 2063 and has been prioritised through the AU’s Strategy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE), achieving these objectives requires an understanding of the multi-faceted nature of women’s poverty and how gender-responsive infrastructure can play a pivotal role in its alleviation. The AU’s Strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment specifically notes that as the continent embarks on major infrastructure projects, the coming decade offers the opportunity to open up infrastructure to greater inclusion of women in the design, implementation and benefits that ensue.    

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What’s normal? Tackling the norms that hinder gender equality

By Bathylle Missika, Head of Division – Networks, Partnerships and Gender and Gabrielle Naumann-Woleske, Policy Analyst, OECD Development Centre

What do you consider ‘normal’? Is it normal that men earn more than women and make up the majority of parliamentarians, managers, presidents and CEOs? Is it normal that most men do less than 50% of unpaid care and domestic work and yet make the most important financial decisions at home?  What we think is normal is not only a reflection of what is typical or standard, but also implies that it is what we consider to be appropriate or acceptable. When it comes to men and women’s roles in society, our preconceived ideas of what is ‘’normal’’ might be reinforcing a system where men hold the power and women are excluded. In other words, a system that keeps us from achieving gender equality. To break these barriers, we need to question and measure these norms, including masculine norms, for a transformation based on evidence and data, rather than assumptions and stereotypes.

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(A)head of her times. The world needs women’s talent to shape a better future

By Annalisa Primi, Head, Economic Transformation and Development Division, OECD Development Centre

She is passionate. She sees opportunities where others don’t see them. She has the strength to pursue her visions against all odds. She experiments. She builds alliances. She sets up and manages a factory putting staff well-being at the core. She becomes a successful entrepreneur. She has basic education, born in 1877 into a poor family in Umbria, Italy

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Gender-based violence: the ‘pandemic within a pandemic’ with devastating human and economic consequences

By Flavia Bustreo, Global leader for health & rights of women, children, adolescents & elderly & Former Assistant Director-General at WHO, Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO and Felicia Knaul, Director, Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas, Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences at the Miller School of Medicine

Last year, in early February, we joined global leaders and Ministers from a number of countries at a landmark conference organised by the OECD on ending violence against women. The first of its kind, it reflected the rising recognition among OECD countries that violence against women is both a grave violation of human rights as well as an economic sinkhole. The COVID-19 crisis has magnified the existing ‘pandemic within a pandemic’ of violence, with devastating consequences for individuals, and for our societies and economies at large.

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The sectoral and gendered impacts of COVID-19 in Africa

By Anzetse Were, Senior Economist FSD Kenya

Africa, like much of the world, is still in the throes of the COVID pandemic and related economic fallout. The pandemic has cost the continent about USD 69 billion per month and economic growth is projected to contract by 2.6% in 2020. This downturn is set to cost Africa at least $115 billion in output losses in 2020 with GDP per capita growth expected to contract by nearly 6.0 %. Additionally, the pandemic may push 40 million people into extreme poverty in 2020 across the continent, eroding at least five years of progress in fighting poverty.

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