By Pierre de Boisséson, Economist, 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.
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.
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
By Gianluca Grimalda, Senior Researcher at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, member of the Taskforce on Social Cohesion at the ThinkTank20 group for the G20 2021 meeting, and member of the Trustlab OECD initiative
Why are women from Western countries more in favour of income redistribution than men, and why are they voting in larger numbers for left-wing parties? For instance, 55% of women backed Joe Biden in the recent U.S. elections, while only 46% of men did, according to a nationwide poll. Are women intrinsically more generous and sensitive to social issues than men, or do they believe that voting for left-wing parties will advance their cause against discrimination and unfair treatment? In a recently published article, we argue that part of the reason for this behaviour is eminently psychological, and revolves around men’s higher degree of self-confidence than women1.
By Mona Ahmed, Junior Policy Analyst, OECD Development Centre
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected women and men differently depending on the sector they work in, their employment situation and their access to labour and social protection measures. Domestic and care work, traditionally female-dominated, form one of the most marginalised, undervalued and least protected employment sectors. It therefore comes as no surprise that the current crisis has not reinvented the wheel, but rather amplified persistent vulnerabilities faced by female migrant workers.
ByGabrielle Szabo, Senior Gender Equality Adviser and Chiara Orlassino, Research Adviser, Save the Children UK
This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.
By New Year’s Eve, half-a-million girls may already have married as a result of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19. New analysis from our Global Girlhood Report suggests that by 2025, 2.5 million girls may marry as children. These marriages will add to the estimated 12 million child marriages that take place every year, 2 million of which involve girls under 15 years of age.
These increases will continue over the next decade, but they are not a challenge for future leaders and communities – they are a challenge for today. The risks that set girls on a path to child marriage are already mounting, and materialising. Decision-makers and gender equality advocates must ask ourselves what we can do to stop COVID-19 triggering a child marriage pandemic now. Fortunately, our history already holds many of the answers and we are learning more about how to respond to new challenges from each other every day.
Many very relevant things have been said about the adverse impact of gender-blind social protection systems on gender equality. Yet, at a time when many countries are embracing universal social protection, more clarity is needed on who amongst potential beneficiaries are most at risk of falling into the gender inequality trap. In the absence of gender-sensitive social protection reforms, my take is that the risk may fall disproportionately on those who may not be eligible for social assistance and who rely exclusively on social insurance systems. Indeed, gender-blind social insurance creates enormous space for perpetuating gender inequality.
Understanding why begins with recalling that social protection typically encompasses both social insurance and social assistance.
On the one hand, social assistance programmes are not conditional on previous payments of contributions. They are usually financed through general taxation and external resources. In developing countries, social assistance schemes have witnessed the most rapid growth amongst social protection programmes. By and large, social assistance, including cash transfers and benefits related to maternity and children, and social pensions have been instrumental in addressing gender-specific constraints in the labour market and society in general, increasing women’s income security and labour force participation. Yet, some specific forms of social assistance schemes are not free from criticism. Shahra Razavi rightly blames the paternalistic conditionalities often attached to cash transfer schemes for not acknowledging women as workers but instead reinforcing their traditional role as caregivers. Conditional cash transfers can also increase the opportunity costs for women to participate in the labour market by exposing them to greater insecurity if they have to travel long distances to reach collection points or health facilities. Still, I think it is fair to say that gains for women from expanding social assistance outweigh the costs. Continue reading “What will it take for universal social protection to avoid the gender inequality trap?”
Gender-responsive social protection systems have been very effective in mitigating the inequalities generated by markets. Take the case of work-related benefits, such as maternity and parental leave and sickness and unemployment benefits. Thanks to these transfers, the gender gap in disposable incomes in a range of high- and middle-income countries becomes much smaller than the gap in market incomes, while affordable childcare services have been pivotal in giving women, especially mothers, a foothold in the labour market.
Globally, however, only 41% of mothers with newborns receive a maternity benefit, with coverage rates as low as 16% in Africa. Widespread labour market informality is at the root of this exclusion. Yet, in Chile, Costa Rica and South Africa, social insurance-based leave schemes have been extended to cover informal wage workers, such as domestic workers and seasonal agricultural labourers. Mongolia provides an interesting combination of contributory and non-contributory benefits, including maternity cash benefits to all pregnant women and mothers of infants regardless of their contribution to the social insurance scheme, employment status or nationality. In recent decades, child- and family-related allowances have also gained traction in developing countries. Their aim is to offset some of the costs of raising children while promoting basic income security and investing in children’s capabilities. Such schemes mostly target mothers on the premise that women are more likely than men to prioritise child-oriented spending.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO)1, only a minority of the world’s inhabitants (45.2%) enjoy at least one social protection benefit today. If this protection amounts to 84.1% in Europe, it is in Africa that the situation is most worrying with only 17.8% of the population covered. It is difficult to have a fair assessment of women’s coverage level since most of the available and disaggregated data only concern benefits provided to mothers with newborns.2 Evidence points to the fact that, regarding social protection also, women are structural victims.
The Protection and Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’) promulgated on March 23, 2010 by President Barack Obama and the 2011 report on the Social Protection Floor for a Fair and Inclusive Globalization by the advisory group chaired by Michelle Bachelet, set by ILO with the collaboration of the WHO, have increased awareness around the concept of social protection. After the economic and financial crisis of 2008, these initiatives allowed policy makers from poor countries to more freely defend the idea of institutional solidarity. Indeed, Africans had prioritised social protection since at least the early 2000s3 but poor governance and the conflicting requirements of donors in budgetary matters have failed to bring to fruition their ambitions in the area of social protection and health. So, what does this specifically mean for African women and social protection? Three considerations follow: