Friday, February 20, 2015

The cost of inequality in women’s work

Women: bearing the brunt 

ActionAid has calculated that US$9 trillion26 is the cost that women in developing countries bear each year due to unequal wages and the fact that women have less access than men to paid jobs (see methodological annex for details). 
The staggering amount of US$9 trillion is equal to more than the GDP of Britain, France and Germany combined. This huge disparity is a shocking illustration of the depth of women’s economic inequality, which too often denies women the right to a decent job and equal pay. If women in developing countries were paid as much as men they could earn an extra US$2 trillion. And if women participated in the workforce at the same rate as men, women could earn another US$6 trillion. If women in developing countries were both paid as much as men and had the same access to jobs as men, they could be US$9 trillion better off – this is because more women would be in employment at a higher rate of pay.

This calculation is made on the basis of average earnings of men and women in developing countries today. However, it is a well-known fact that wages in developing countries continue to lag significantly behind rich countries and are insufficient to meet the standards of a living wage. Men and women alike struggle to secure decently paid work. This means that achieving equal wages for women and men does not necessarily imply that women’s pay would be enough to provide adequately for themselves and their families, indeed it would be unlikely to do so.
Finally, our calculations don’t include the potential value of women’s unpaid care work if it were translated into monetary terms. This means that in reality the price of gender inequality in work is even higher than US$9 trillion – already a mind-boggling amount. But these costs hit not only the purse. Women, who suffer from economic exploitation, are less able to make life choices and are often unable to act on them anyway, be it standing up to violence, enjoying their sexual and reproductive health and rights, pursuing education or a career of choice, or caring for family and household without being economically worse off. Such shocking levels of women’s economic inequality should concern us all, because when women lose, everybody loses.
 For example, unemployment, job insecurity and low pay all limit women’s ability to feed, educate and nurture their children. And on the other hand, women enjoying decent work and equal and living wages is a path to poverty eradication, gender equality, sustainable development and inclusive growth. According to the ILO, valuing and recognising women‘s work, both paid and unpaid, might be one of the most important factors for keeping many households out of poverty, thus driving progress and prosperity for all.

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