A conversation on twitter this weekend triggered (yet another) ethical dilemma. Gosh it’s exhausting trying to be a do-gooder. Claire Melamed started it by sending round a link to an article arguing that men should sign a pledge stating publicly that they will refuse to take part in all-male panels at tech conferences (which are regularly men-only affairs, apparently). As a regular token NGO speaker at various talkshops, would I make a similar pledge, she asked? Owen Barder is already signed up, she added.
They may not be as extreme as geeky tech events, but lots of development gabfests do indeed feature men on the panel talking to women (and men) in the audience. That violates basic fairness, inhibits the profile and (possibly) career development of half of the potential talent pool, and is likely to distort the agenda and resulting discussion (less focus on care economy, women’s rights etc). So obviously, the answer is yes to a boycott, right?
Most people who contact me don’t know the final panel line-up yet. They are in the process of contacting a range of potential speakers, both men and women. Prominent women in the development debate (like Claire and her outgoing boss at ODI Alison Evans) are in huge demand, so presumably have to say no quite a lot of the time. Should I say ‘provisionally yes, but if you end up with a male-only line-up, I’ll withdraw at the last minute’? That seems to me to cross the line from principled to prima donna – pretty unfair on already stressed-out conference organisers who may be trying ever so hard to ensure a balanced line up. Or should I say ‘are you committed to inviting a decent number of women speakers to ensure a gender balance on your panels?’ – everyone is going to say yes, but how do you measure how serious they are?
Then of course there’s the organisational profile thing. In fantasy mode, suppose I get a call saying ‘Barack Obama, David Cameron and Jim Kim are speaking on development, and need a token NGO person, could you do it? Christine Lagarde is busy that day, sorry.’ Am I really going to say no?
And what about a panel with all male speakers and a woman chair (a pretty common occurrence)?
And why privilege gender over eg ethnicity – what about all-white panels on development (which are even more common than all-male ones)?
Oh dear. The torments of the self-obsessed liberal.
Tell me what you think, and depending on the response, I may well set up another online poll to help solve my dilemma. Meanwhile, the interns poll is still getting votes (see right), and the agnostics (NGOs should decide for themselves whether to pay interns) has overtaken the ‘pay all interns’ lobby and is drawing away. Unexpected result – love it.
Will it change the weather or disappear? I’m hopeful, based on the 40 page overview, (so you should take these comments as initial and tentative, until someone reads the full tome). Here’s a summary of the content, and a few reactions.
First, what kind of inequality is it talking about?
‘This Report focuses on three key dimensions of gender equality: the accumulation of endowments (education, health, and physical assets); the use of those endowments to take up economic opportunities and generate incomes; and the application of those endowments to take actions, or agency, affecting individual and household well-being.’
What’s the approach?
‘This Report focuses on the economics of gender equality and development. It uses economic theory to understand what drives differences in key aspects of welfare between men and women. [But it] does not limit itself to economic outcomes—indeed, it devotes roughly equal attention to human endowments, economic opportunities, and women’s agency.’ [nb my colleagues tell me that the economics used is distinctly mainstream – precious few feminist economists in the bibliography.]
Next, what does it say? First the good news:
‘Women have made unprecedented gains in rights, in education and health, and in access to jobs and livelihoods. 136 countries now have explicit guarantees for the equality of all citizens and nondiscrimination between men and women in their constitutions. Progress has not come easily. And it has not come evenly to all countries or to all women—or across all dimensions of gender equality.’
Then the nuance:
‘[In some] aspects of gender equality there has been most progress worldwide (education, fertility, life expectancy, labor force participation, and the extension of legal rights), [while in others] there has been little or very slow change (excess female mortality, segregation in economic activity, gaps in earnings, responsibility for house and care work, asset ownership, and women’s agency in private and public spheres).’
In the areas of progress, such as life expectancy or falling fertility rates, ‘The changes were much faster than when today’s rich countries were poorer. It took more than 100 years for the number of children born to a woman in the United States to decline from 6 to 3; the same decline took just over 35 years in India and less than 20 in Iran (figure 2).’ [Are you listening, population controllers?]
The record on education is extraordinary:
‘Two-thirds of all countries have reached gender parity in primary education enrollments, while in over one-third, girls significantly outnumber boys in secondary education. And in a striking reversal of historical patterns, more women than men now attend universities, with women’s tertiary enrollment across the globe having risen more than sevenfold since 1970.’
The WDR has a go at explaining the structural origins of success v failure:
‘The main lesson: when market signals, formal institutions, and income growth all come together to support investments in women, gender equality can and does improve very quickly. And these improvements can occur even when informal institutions, such as social norms about what is “appropriate” for girls and boys or women and men, may themselves take time to adapt.’
In the areas of slow progress:
‘Gender disparities persist in these “sticky” domains for three main reasons. First, there may only be a single institutional or policy “fix,” which can be difficult and easily blocked. Second, disparities persist when multiple reinforcing constraints combine to block progress. Third, gender differences are particularly persistent when rooted in deeply entrenched gender roles and social norms—such as those about who is responsible for care and housework in the home, and what is “acceptable” for women and men to study, do, and aspire to….. Perhaps the “stickiest” aspect of gender outcomes is the way patterns of gender inequality are reproduced over time.’
And progress is particularly hard ‘where poverty combines with other factors of exclusion—such as ethnicity, caste, remoteness, race, disability, or sexual orientation.’
So much for the diagnosis – what about the cure? The WDR proposes three criteria for selecting what issues require public action:
‘“First, which gender gaps are most significant for enhancing welfare and sustaining development? Second, which of these gaps persist even as countries get richer? Third, for which of these priority areas has there been insufficient or misplaced attention? “
From these, it arrives at four priority areas for action at both national and global levels:
“Reducing gender gaps in human capital endowments (addressing excess female mortality and eliminating pockets of gender disadvantage in education where they persist)
Closing earnings and productivity gaps between women and men
Shrinking gender differences in voice
Limiting the reproduction of gender inequality over time, whether it is through endowments, economic opportunities, or agency”
It then applies these ideas to some specific areas, such as reducing excess female mortality. Its recommendations are pleasingly holistic, stressing the importance of water and sanitation or the need to release women’s time through improved childcare provision, as well as more specific policies such as affirmative action in labour markets and political representation. Thankfully, the depth and detail of the ‘so what’ section goes far beyond the usual ‘general denunciation + demand for gender disaggregated data’ school.
OK, that’s my attempt at a summary. Here’s some of the aspects I like:
• The symbolic importance of the World Bank devoting its flagship report to this topic.
• While focussing on economic evidence and argument, is very far from being ‘economistic’, covering topics such as endowments, agency, social and political institutions, time poverty, domestic violence and gender norms that are central to a full understanding of gender and development.
• The usual World Bank collection of excellent Killer Facts, which we will all be lifting for our own reports for years to come.
What am I uneasy about? There are only a few obvious gaps (see below) – the real issue is the relative weight given to different topics and approaches. Although the WDR ticks the right boxes (e.g. on the intrinsic importance of women’s rights, rather than just the instrumental benefits for social progress or the economy), the weight of analysis and policy recommendations is solidly in the more orthodox sphere. As my colleague Ines Smyth puts it, there is much more on ‘what women can do for development’, than there is on ‘what development can do for women’. There are nods to the importance of women’s organizations, but the treatment is rather cursory, compared to issues like labour market policies.
Then there are some pretty startling gaps. In a report that stresses the importance of gender norms and values, how can there be not a single mention of religion or faith-based organizations? In a report on ‘gender’ (and not just ‘women’) there is very little attention to the construction of masculinity(ies), which seems to be rising up the genderagenda fast right now. Finally, it also seems largely oblivious to events of the last five years – a word search finds no uses of ‘food prices’ or ‘climate change’ or ‘financial crisis’. This is just an initial reading, and I’m sure further concerns and disagreements will surface as people read and debate the report (which is of course part of its contribution and purpose). So I may come back for another go on this, depending on comments and other reviews.
End of inevitable NGO whinge. The report is excellent, and let’s hope everyone in the Bank, DFID, national governments and elsewhere in the development jungle spends time properly digesting (and disputing) its analysis and recommendations.
And here’s a nice World Bank launch video – when did multilateral institutions get this funky?
Here’s a brief workout for your gender analysis skills, in advance of this weekend’s launch of the 2012 World Development Report on gender and inequality. Two superficially similar short (2 minute) videos on women’s empowerment: one from Nike Foundation, and the other from the Commonwealth. Your task – compare, contrast and identify what’s missing. Then vote. [update - you can now vote for the parody version, which I've just included as a third video - h/t Toby Quantrill ]
First the Nike Girl Effect video
Next up, the Commonwealth Countries League Education Fund (they really need a new name….)
Hats off to UNICEF for acting promptly to revise its recent paper on inequality after a discussion with Oxfam (and probably others) about the misleading statements on gender in its first version, but I still don’t think they’ve got it right, so with heavy heart, here comes a rebuttal………
The problems began when UNICEF stated in the original version of an otherwise excellent report on inequality (a critical issue that is too often ignored):
‘Unlike youth, income disparities do not appear to have a disproportionate, negative impact on women…… female populations, on the aggregate, face the same levels of income inequality as the population at large.’
But as the methodology annex makes clear, none of the techniques used in the paper make any attempt to lift the lid on what is going on within households. So the lack of difference between men and women is purely an artifice of the methodology, not a reflection of (an unknown) reality. We (and UNICEF) cannot tell whether they are wrong or right, because the data provides no means of doing so.
One thing that bothers me though. As far as I can work out, the only factor that would register a significant difference in terms of gender would be a large number of women-headed households that are much poorer than the rest. The fact that this does not register suggests either that women-headed households are not on average poorer than others (which I doubt) or that they are not sufficiently numerous to make a major impact on the stats (more likely). But based on my knowledge of Latin America I would have expected both to be true, and so to see a gender difference even using this methodology – anyone got any ideas why that hasn’t happened?
Anyway, the new version of the report, posted last week, backpedals somewhat, but gets itself into a bit of a tangle: It still says ‘Unlike children and youth, using the same data and methodology, the distribution of income at the global level does not appear to have a disproportionate, negative impact on women’, but then, a couple of paras lower down, concedes ‘based on the available aggregate income data at the global level, it is not possible to identify the dispersion of income among household members.’
But surely, if the data you are using doesn’t distinguish between women and men within households, the finding is pretty meaningless, and the statement on gender inequality is misleading, right?
It’s a shame to have to pick up on this, both because UNICEF is fully aware that the absence of gender disaggregated data is indeed a problem (see here for an example), and because the report is otherwise strong and well worth reading. This from the executive summary:
‘Using market exchange rates, the richest population quintile gets 83 percent of global income with just a single percentage point for those in the poorest quintile. While there is evidence of progress, it is too slow; we estimate that it would take more than 800 years for the bottom billion to achieve ten percent of global income under the current rate of change. Also disturbing is the prevalence of children and youth among the poorest income quintiles, as approximately 50 percent are below the $2/day international poverty line.’
But the gender section is unfortunate and potentially damaging. As the main ‘man bites dog’ surprise in the report, it has already attracted coverage, for example in this post on Global Dashboard by the ODI’s Claire Melamed. Claire’s post shows how a misleading bit of analysis can snowball, as she summarized UNICEF as saying ‘Inequality is not a gender problem’. I’m sure Claire would be the first to agree that when it comes to economics, gender inequality most clearly is a problem, and a big one at that – in assets, in finance, in access to training/extension. It’s also worth noting that income is a pretty hopeless way to try and understand what happens behind the front door of households – better to look at control of assets, consumption, or ‘time poverty’.
Until someone takes responsibility for addressing the data gap, these kinds of confusions are only likely to continue. For starters, has anyone ever pulled together all the available studies on intra-household inequality in income, consumption and time use and found a plausible way to scale up to some general conclusions, however tentative? If not, who’s the best candidate to do so – a non-gender specialist outfit like the World Bank or keep it in the ghetto with UN Women, given that their latest report is so brilliant?
Apologies for any discomfiture to colleagues at UNICEF, which does great work on this and many other issues, and they do of course have right of reply. [h/t Amanda Lundy]
Update: See comments for a response from the authors
The new campaign that Oxfam is launching next week will have a big focus on gender – almost every issue in development looks very different depending on whether you are a man or a women. I saw that in graphic form last week in Tanzania, during a training session for 40 ‘farmer animators’ – local activists who are helping to galvanize their communities in Shinyanga, one of Tanzania’s poorest regions. Men and women split into two separate groups to discuss the causes of hunger, its impacts, and how people respond. Here’s what they came up with. First the men:
Causes: lack of fertilisers, infrastructure and seeds; drought; environmental mismanagement Impacts: hunger; sickness; death; street kids; rising crime and poverty How people respond: reduce the number of meals; do more day labour on other farms; sell off cattle and assets; borrow money and as a last resort, split the family up and send members to places where they can find food (eg with relatives elsewhere in Tanzania).
Compare this with the women’s list:
Causes: drought; deforestation; lack of tools; infidelity, prostitution and drunkenness (which all deprive families of income) Impacts: disease; divorce; ignorance (kids dropping out of school) How people respond: women look to friends and family for support, men try to find other women; women forced to start unprofitable petty businesses; children forced to beg
At which point a largely good-humoured battle of the sexes broke out (nothing livens up a meeting more than a discussion of gender differences). The men accused the women of stealing food for their lovers, while the women told stories of men sneaking out of the house off to their mistresses with the family rice stock down their trousers (with a hilarious mime of a man caught in the act). Eventually an animator who was also a (male) pastor intervened and said ‘men have to acknowledge the problem’ and was awarded with a loud ululation from the women.
What differences emerge from this? Mainly that women place much more emphasis on intra-household relationships as both cause and consequence of either hunger or survival. Men prefer to stick to talking about stuff – seeds, roads, fertilizers. Beyond this particular conversation, the gender differences include the mass exclusion of women from owning land, accessing state support services like agricultural extension, or getting credit. Despite these obstacles, they already grow much of Africa’s food. Simply equalizing their access to such things would provide a substantial boost to the food supply. Gender issues matter not just because of equality and human rights, but because the uphill battle facing Africa’s women farmers entails a horrendous waste of human and economic potential.
Just got round to reading the 65 page outline (dread to think how long the final version will be) of the 2012 World Development Report on ‘Gender Equality and Development’. Kudos to the Bank, as ever, for putting such documents online as part of the report writing process – how many NGOs ever consider doing that? (see here for a rather successful example of us trying to do this).
As always with these World Bank flagships, it’s fascinating both for what’s in there and for what’s missing.
The report will emphasize four main messages:
1. During the last quarter century, sustained growth in many countries has been particularly effective in reducing disparities on some dimensions of gender equality (e.g. girls’ education and fertility decline – though that’s not entirely an issue of gender equality….). And, the pace of change in these outcomes has been much faster in today’s developing countries than it has historically been in high-income countries.
2. However, economic growth—even at a pace more rapid and sustained—will not by itself be enough to bring about improvements across all dimensions of gender equality. Growth alone won’t close the remaining gender gaps; poor women are missing out on the benefits of growth and constraints other than income (access to land, social norms, political voice) will continue to generate inequality even in high income societies
3. The costs to countries of maintaining gender inequality are likely to have become even larger in the globalized world of the 21st Century. At the same time, globalization offers opportunities for more rapid changes in norms and beliefs concerning gender equality. The Bank sees a ‘growign global consensus on the importance of gender equality’.
4. There is an important role for policies targeted towards reducing the most costly gender disparities that are not responsive to growth, and closing the most egregious gender gaps has become more urgent now than it was two or three decades ago.
Nothing too earth shattering in that, but it does matter (a lot) that the Bank is devoting such a high profile publication to the issue – previous WDRs such as the 2008 one on agriculture have played a big part in shifting the wider development debate (though others have sunk without trace), and it is to be hoped that this one has similar impact.
So what’s good, bad and/or missing?
Good: as always, the Bank has assembled a colossal literature review – dozens of great killer facts and examples that we will all be mining in the years ahead. However, the outline does little to address the weakness of some of the really big ‘stylised facts’, some of them highly questionable or just plain wrong like the ‘70% of the world’s poor are women’ stat. An alarming number of the big stats on land use, access to services etc that are routinely trotted out come from studies that are 20 years old or more. Let’s hope the final version updates these or gives us some new ones.
The report also avoids the trap of equating ‘gender’ with ‘women’, acknowledging that men lag women on an increasing number of issues like tertiary education, health (obesity, alcoholism) or life expectancy.
Bad/Missing: Although the draft’s conceptual framework breaks up the drivers of change into formal institutions such as governments, informal institutions (such as social norms and network) and markets, its implicit change model is based on the interaction between governments, policies, academic evidence and individual voters. The institutions bit is pretty impoverished, with precious little signs of any collective actors located between households and the state, such as churches, media, civil society or even the women’s movement. The draft has a telling sentence where it defines society as ‘the sum of individuals and households’. Oh dear.
Perhaps predictably, given who the report is trying to influence, gender equality (and development more broadly) is understood, discussed, calculated etc. largely in terms of economic growth and economic calculations (whether of household, their members and other institutions).
Because of this privileging of the economic, the critical role in society of reproduction - still so undervalued – and the reality that women continue to play the primary reproductive role, gets lost or downplayed. If we go down the road of the narrow contribution to ‘production’ in the ‘economy’, we are likely to further undervalue the major contribution of women in reproduction. We also further the pressure on women to have to contribute in the recognised ‘production’ part of the ‘economy’ (if they are to have recognition and respect) while they also have to continue playing the primary role in reproduction – more stress for women, less value of their role = problem. This argument of course should not undermine the absolute right of women to have the same opportunities for participation in production when they choose to.
The outline is far too dismissive of ‘wellbeing’ and other new economics – even a perfunctory trawl of the gender issues in major Bank exercises like Voices of the Poor would have identified issues of shame, humiliation and fear as just as important to women’s lived experience of poverty as income measures.
It appears blind to the gendered impact of technologies, whether old and new.
Some of these holes can still be filled with decent case studies, so if you are engaged on these issues, make sure to send them over to the WDR team.
[Thanks to Ines Smyth and other Oxfam gender gurus for their input to this post]
Here’s another interesting example of how to do advocacy where you might not expect it, in this case on women’s rights in Islamic contexts. If you are born a woman in Yemen you have a 50% chance of living in absolute poverty, a 70% chance of being illiterate and an 80% chance of never holding a paid job. You have a 1 in 19 chance of dying in childbirth. Half of all women marry before the age of 15, and three quarters before the age of 18. Early marriage is a significant contributor to high maternal and infant mortality.
Much of the resistance to ending early marriage stems from attitudes and beliefs. The beliefs underpinning early marriage include protecting chastity and family honour, lack of awareness of the negative impacts of teenage pregnancy, poverty and girls being viewed as an economic liability by some families.
What campaigners did: Since 2005, working with the Shima network and the Women’s National Committee – a loose alliance of 17 organisations and one government body – Oxfam in Yemen has run a campaign on ‘safe marriage’, to reduce the tolerance and practice of early marriage by increasing public understanding of its significance as a cause and consequence of poverty, particularly in relation to the health, education and economic status of women.
The partners compiled hard evidence on the impact of the early marriage on health and education using statistics, real life stories from people and communicating them through radio, school plays, posters, focus groups and discussions in the mosques. They found allies among religious leaders, teachers, marriage contractors and other influential members of the communities.
Results: Some cases of delayed marriage have been reported, but there was significant resistance to the idea of setting a minimum legal age for marriage in the Parliament . This resistance was based on the beliefs that banning early marriage was contrary to the teachings of Islam and tradition and an unjustifiable restriction on parent’s individual freedoms.
However in 2009, following lobbying from women’s organisations, a bill was introduced to the Parliament making 17 years the minimum age of marriage. The law was challenged and called back by the conservative opposition and it is currently on hold. But the taboo on speaking about this was finally broken.
When religious leaders objected, the campaign took its foot off the pedal to allow time for dialogue and identifying allies within the mosques. It met with Imams and officials at the Ministry of Religious Guidance through the Training Centre for Imams, a crucial step in allaying the fears of religious conservatives and proof that this was not a western-imposed issue. The campaign also commissioned a study to look at the views of the different Islamic sects/lines of thinking on the age of marriage, and the laws on minimum age of marriage in the Arab Countries.
· Language matters: focussing on health and education impacts and turning the campaign into one to promote a “safe age of marriage“ was a more acceptable concept that resonated with many men, women and children, religious and community leaders much better than the more normative language on women’s rights used earlier in the campaign..
· Be respectful of institutions, learn their language and understand their beliefs. Work within faiths, (quoting scripture, identifying allies etc) not against them
· Know when to go slow and when to push – it’s like catching a fish!
We’ve been churning out a bunch of materials on the global economic crisis summarizing our conclusions to date on its developmental impact (though who knows if this is the end, or just a pause, in the financial chaos).
The Global Economic Crisis and Developing Countries brings together our findings from research in 12 countries involving some 2,500 people. It’s the final version of the draft paper I posted here back in January, so if you sent in comments you can check to see if we took any notice of them. And here’s my standard powerpoint presentation of the main points.
Gender and The Economic Crisis, the latest issue of the Gender and Development journal, builds on what I think was the most innovative aspect of our work on the crisis, pulling together some top academics and practitioners to review the gender impacts by country (Philippines, Thailand, Peru, Ethiopia, South Africa) and sector (migrant workers, farm labourers, domestic workers, street traders, home carers) plus some great overview pieces. (And for an interesting precedent closer to home, in the UK the Fawcett Society is taking the British government to court over the gender bias of its spending cuts – see here - h/t Sue Smith.)
Finally, if you want to watch me summarizing our findings and waving my arms around a lot (actually, I was trying to control myself so I only waved one arm), see below. These plus all the dozens of other papers on the crisis can be found on Oxfam’s crisis webpage.
One of the things undermining the effectiveness of the UN’s work on gender issues has been the lack of a single agency with responsibility for the subject. Now, after years of difficult negotiations, the U.N. General Assembly has voted to set up a body that will seek to improve the situation of women and girls around the world. The new body will be known officially as the U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, although thankfully officials say it will be referred to as U.N. Women (website here). It will consolidate four separate U.N. divisions now dealing with women’s and gender issues.
According to the website: “UN Women will have two key roles: It will support inter-governmental bodies such as the Commission on the Status of Women in their formulation of policies, global standards and norms, and it will help Member States to implement these standards, standing ready to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it, as well as forging effective partnerships with civil society. It will also help the UN system to be accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress.”
U.N. diplomats said four years of negotiations between Western developed nations and developing countries, many of them states where women are often discriminated against, had been tough because of varying views on women’s rights and gender equality. A new post of under-secretary-general will be created to head U.N. Women, with diplomats saying privately that former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (right) is one of the top candidates. U.N. Women will become operational on January 1, 2011.
Update: oops, missed this comment from elsewhere in the Oxfam machine. Luckily, it looks like I’m on message:
‘Oxfam reaction to the establishment of a single UN gender equality entity: Daniela Rosche, lead of Oxfam’s campaign in support of the new entity said:
“Oxfam welcomes the establishment of the new UN gender quality entity. A single UN gender equality entity is critical for women everywhere, and especially for women in the poorest countries.”
“However, the proposed mandate of the new entity was compromised during the negotiations. For example, the GA has missed out on the opportunity to strengthen the accountability of the UN system for its gender mainstreaming responsibilities. It remains to be seen if the entity’s mandate and structure, which have been agreed yesterday, will be powerful enough to ensure it has a positive impact on women’s lives”.
“UN member states’ decision to involve civil society organizations and women’s organizations in particular, in the work of the new entity is promising. Issues of women’s rights, gender equality and development are far too complex for any organization to solve alone. Unless women’s rights advocates can bring the perspectives of women to the table, it is doubtful that the new entity will be successful.”
“Much will depend on the leadership of the new Under-Secretary-General who will soon be appointed to lead the new entity. Despite earlier promises by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the recruitment process for this post is happening behind closed doors and has left civil society completely in the dark. We call upon the Secretary General to make this process transparent as a matter of urgency.”
A recent report by Oxfam’s UK Poverty Programme looks at the impact of the global economic crisis on Europe’s women. Based on research in ten EU member states, the report finds (among other things):
‘The impact of the recession is significant and damaging for both men and women living in poverty. This report tracks the impact for women as a whole, and particularly for members of vulnerable groups, who face multiple disadvantages. The latter are likely to include the young and the elderly, migrants and ethnic minorities, the low-skilled, those with short-term contracts, single mothers, women in rural areas, those aged over 45, and women with disabilities.
Priorities for government action are often based on a norm, which prioritises subsidies to, for example, car plants and the construction industry which tend to employ men, over subsidies to sectors such as textiles or retail which employ more women.
Reductions in public expenditure will always have a major – and disproportionate – impact on women’s livelihoods, as women are in the majority in the public sector workforce. For example, across the EU, whereas 80 per cent of construction workers are male, 78 per cent of health and social services workers, and over 60 per cent of teachers in primary and secondary education, are female.
The impact of the recession on women is likely to become more acute over time as the effects of labour-market shifts are increasingly felt within households, and cuts in public expenditure affect public services and the many women who work in them and use them.’
One conclusion from all this, is that ‘gender budgeting should be adopted as a standard approach to assess spending on men and women within economic recovery plans and other public budget processes. Alternative accounting measures should also be developed to ensure that women’s unpaid activities in the reproductive economy are recognised in systems of national accounts.’ In policy terms, if you don’t measure it, it doesn’t really exist……
For more, check out Oxfam’s genderworks project on gender and poverty in Europe
This blog is written and maintained by Duncan Green, strategic adviser for Oxfam GB and author of 'From Poverty to Power'. More information on Duncan and the book is available on the From Poverty to Power official website.
It is a personal reflection by the author. It is intended to provoke debate and conversations about development, not as a comprehensive statement of Oxfam's agreed policies - for those, please take a deep breath and read the Oxfam International strategic plan or consult policy papers on a range of development issues.