Women won’t be paid as much as men for another 75 years. That’s according to a report released by Oxfam today, which urges G20 leaders to tackle gender inequality when they meet in Australia later this year.
The report, G20 and gender equality – How the G20 can advance women’s rights in employment, social protection and fiscal policies, shows how the G20’s growth ambitions cannot be realised without policies addressing systemic discrimination and economic exclusion of women across G20 countries.
The report, developed in collaboration with the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which assesses G20 countries across a number of gender-related policies, is being released as the Business 20 (B20) – one of the satellite conferences in the lead-up to the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane in November – meets in Sydney this week.
The report shows that across G20 countries and beyond, women were paid less than men, did most of the unpaid labor, were over-represented in part-time work and were discriminated against in the household, markets and institutions.
“This gap between women and men reflects a fundamental and entrenched form of inequality afflicting G20 countries, despite the gains that have undoubtedly been made in some areas,” said Oxfam International’s Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima.
Depending on the country context, an extra 20 – 60 per cent would be added to the GDP of individual G20 countries if the hidden contribution of unpaid work – such as caring for children or carrying out housework – was recognised and valued.
Byanyima commented: “Meanwhile, if women’s paid employment rates were the same as men’s, the USA’s GDP would increase by nine per cent, the Eurozone’s by 13 per cent and Japan’s by 16 per cent.”
She said the absence of women’s rights drove poverty, while their fulfilment could drive development.
In Canada, progress has slowed to a halt
In Canada, progress in women’s labour force participation has slowed to a halt over the past two decades, and the gap between men’s and women’s shares of earned income has remained virtually unchanged. Full-time employment rates for women aged 25–64 have held steady over the past five years at 57 percent on average, compared with 76 percent for men. This gap is most striking among Aboriginal women, whose employment rates are 15 percent below those of non-Aboriginal women.
”Reducing inequality is within reach for policy makers,” said Lauren Ravon, policy advisor for Oxfam Canada. “There is no shortage of potential actions for G20 countries, including Canada. Oxfam and women’s rights organizations across Canada have been advocating for a federally funded accessible childcare programme as a means to advance gender equality and increase women’s participation in the labour force, in particular for low-income women.”
The report shows that in Canada lack of affordable childcare options, coupled with fiscal policies (such as the costly Universal Child Care Benefit programme) that provide an incentive for lower-income mothers to stay at home, create a vicious cycle in which women work fewer years, contribute less to their pensions and employment insurance, and have lower salaries when they re-enter the workforce after their child-rearing years are over.
“Growth and development can only be considered inclusive – and can only benefit Canadians – when women and men have equal opportunities to benefit,” said Ravon. “These are not ‘women’s issues’ – gender equality determines the wellbeing of everyone in all countries, including Canada.”
The G20 has the chance to keep its promise
Among Oxfam’s recommendations for the G20 are:
- to support an accountable post-2015 UN process and inclusion of standalone goals on extreme economic inequality, gender equality and women’s rights;
- to target employment policies to create decent jobs for women, eliminate gender wage gaps and occupational segregation;
- end workplace gender discrimination and promote family-friendly policies such as parental leave entitlements, access to care for children and the elderly, and social insurance, and
- promote financing of public services to reduce women’s unpaid care work.
“In 2012 in the Los Cabos Declaration, G20 leaders committed to tackling the barriers to women’s full economic and social participation and to expanding opportunities for women in their countries,” Byanyima remarked. “During the Australian presidency, the G20 has the chance to keep its promise – by working towards economic growth that is truly inclusive and promotes women’s rights.”
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