What’s block­ing gen­der equal­ity?

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

One year ago, the United Na­tions adopted the 17 Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs), one of which aims for true gen­der equal­ity by 2030.

Em­pow­er­ing women and girls is morally right and eco­nom­i­cally smart. Sev­eral re­cent stud­ies con­firm that there are sub­stan­tial eco­nomic- and hu­man-de­vel­op­ment costs as­so­ci­ated with per­va­sive and sig­nif­i­cant gen­der gaps in eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties and out­comes.

A re­cent re­port by the UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral’s High-Level Panel, which we au­thored, iden­ti­fies ac­tions that gov­ern­ments, busi­nesses, non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, and mul­ti­lat­eral de­vel­op­ment agen­cies can take now to close these gaps and ac­cel­er­ate progress to­ward achiev­ing the SDGs’ over­ar­ch­ing goal of in­clu­sive eco­nomic growth. The re­port shows that greater gen­der equal­ity in a coun­try is as­so­ci­ated with bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion and health, higher per capita in­come, faster and more in­clu­sive eco­nomic growth, and greater in­ter­na­tional com­pet­i­tive­ness.

A widely cited McKin­sey Global In­sti­tute study finds that clos­ing gen­der gaps in la­bor-force par­tic­i­pa­tion rates, part­time ver­sus full-time work, and the com­po­si­tion of em­ploy­ment would add 12-25% to global GDP by 2025. Other stud­ies, us­ing a va­ri­ety of method­olo­gies, find sim­i­lar prospec­tive gains, es­pe­cially in low-fer­til­ity coun­tries such as Ja­pan, South Korea, and Ger­many, and in coun­tries (for ex­am­ple, in the Per­sian Gulf) with low la­bor-force par­tic­i­pa­tion rates for women.

The busi­ness case for gen­der qual­ity is also com­pelling, be­cause women make sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tions to all parts of the value chain. The UN re­port iden­ti­fies nu­mer­ous ben­e­fits for com­pa­nies that have pur­sued gen­der equal­ity in em­ploy­ment, pay, and lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to at­tract, mo­ti­vate, and re­tain tal­ented work­ers, and to ad­dress com­plex prob­lems with more di­verse teams. And sev­eral new stud­ies find that com­pa­nies with more women in top lead­er­ship and board po­si­tions have higher fi­nan­cial re­turns.

More than 90% of girls world­wide now fin­ish pri­mary school, and more women than men are now grad­u­at­ing from col­lege in most re­gions. Yet, de­spite these gains, large gen­der gaps per­sist in all kinds of work – whether paid or un­paid, for­mal or in­for­mal, public or pri­vate, agri­cul­tural or en­tre­pre­neur­ial.

Glob­ally, only 50% of women aged 15 and above are in paid em­ploy­ment, com­pared with about 75% of men. At the same time, women do about three times more un­paid work than men do. When women are paid, their jobs tend to re­flect gen­der stereo­types and pro­vide rel­a­tively low earn­ings, poor work­ing con­di­tions, and lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties for ca­reer ad­vance­ment.

Even when women per­form the same or equal-value jobs as men, they are paid less, on av­er­age (although the size of the pay gap varies con­sid­er­ably around the world). Women are un­der-rep­re­sented in lead­er­ship po­si­tions in both busi­ness and gov­ern­ment. And, com­pared to busi­nesses owned by men, en­ter­prises owned by women are smaller, em­ploy fewer peo­ple, and are more con­cen­trated in sec­tors with lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties for profit and growth.

The UN re­port iden­ti­fies four over­ar­ch­ing and in­ter­con­nected fac­tors that im­pede gen­der equal­ity in all forms of work, and at all lev­els of de­vel­op­ment: ad­verse so­cial norms, dis­crim­i­na­tory laws and in­suf­fi­cient le­gal pro­tec­tions, gen­der gaps in un­paid house­hold and care work, and un­equal ac­cess to dig­i­tal, fi­nan­cial, and prop­erty as­sets.

So­cial norms de­ter­mine eco­nomic out­comes for women in sev­eral ways: they shape women’s de­ci­sions about which oc­cu­pa­tional and ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties to pur­sue; they af­fect the dis­tri­bu­tion of un­paid work within house­holds and wages in paid care ac­tiv­i­ties such as nurs­ing and teach­ing, which em­ploy a high pro­por­tion of women; and they re­flect and re­in­force dis­crim­i­na­tory gen­der stereo­types and im­plicit bi­ases that limit women’s pay and pro­mo­tion prospects.

In many coun­tries, ad­verse so­cial norms are also cod­i­fied in laws that limit women’s pro­fes­sional choices and their abil­ity to ob­tain pass­ports, travel out­side their homes, start busi­nesses, and own or in­herit prop­erty. A re­cent In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund anal­y­sis finds that this kind of le­gal dis­crim­i­na­tion is as­so­ci­ated with lower lev­els of ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment for women, wider gen­der-pay gaps, and fewer women-owned busi­nesses. More­over, ac­cord­ing to the World Bank, 103 coun­tries do not legally man­date gen­der non-dis­crim­i­na­tion in hir­ing, and 101 do not re­quire equal re­mu­ner­a­tion for work of equal value in for­mal-sec­tor jobs.

Hun­dreds of mil­lions of women work in­for­mally, with­out any pro­tec­tion, ei­ther in law or in prac­tice, of their so­cial and la­bor rights. In In­dia, for ex­am­ple, some 120 mil­lion women (around 95% of women in paid la­bor) work in­for­mally, as do around 12 mil­lion women in Mex­ico (around 60% of em­ployed women). Peo­ple work­ing in­for­mally of­ten have no voice to de­mand bet­ter work­place con­di­tions or pay, and this is es­pe­cially true for women, who also face sex­ual ha­rass­ment, vi­o­lence, and re­stric­tions on their re­pro­duc­tive rights. Large gen­der gaps in un­paid work and care are a ma­jor driver of di­min­ished eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties for women. The house­hold work and care re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of women are re­flected in a size­able “moth­er­hood pay penalty.” Around the world, moth­ers with de­pen­dent chil­dren earn, on av­er­age, less than women with­out de­pen­dent chil­dren, and less than fa­thers with sim­i­lar house­hold and em­ploy­ment char­ac­ter­is­tics. In fact, there is some ev­i­dence of a “fa­ther­hood pay pre­mium” – a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship between a man’s wages and how many chil­dren he has.

Re­duc­ing and re­dis­tribut­ing the time re­quired for un­paid care re­spon­si­bil­i­ties re­quires in­vest­ments by both the pri­vate and public sec­tors – in in­fra­struc­ture, af­ford­able care ser­vices, early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion, fam­ily leave, and fam­i­lyfriendly work­places. Such in­vest­ments are ben­e­fi­cial not only for in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies, but also for busi­nesses and the econ­omy as a whole, be­cause they in­crease women’s labor­force par­tic­i­pa­tion rates and pro­duc­tiv­ity, cre­ate paid jobs in care ser­vices, and im­prove chil­dren’s school per­for­mance, boost­ing their fu­ture ed­u­ca­tional-at­tain­ment lev­els and pro­duc­tiv­ity. Draw­ing on ev­i­dence from around the world, the UN re­port pro­vides nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples of proven and pos­si­ble mea­sures to tackle the con­straints on women’s eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. At this year’s an­nual World Bank and IMF meet­ings, world lead­ers sought poli­cies to spur faster, more in­clu­sive growth. They would do well to move gen­der equal­ity to the top of the list.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.