Facts & Figures

Rio+20 discussions are highlighting several priority areas which need global attention, including: decent jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans and disaster readiness. Gender equality is central to all these issues. Some related facts and figures.


Empower Women. Go Green.

Did you know that more than 40 percent of the world's population still relies on solid fuels for household use? Women and children are especially impacted. View and share this infographic on why sustainable energy matters for gender equality.

  • There are currently 190 million people unemployed and more than 500 million will be looking for jobs over the next 10 years.[1]
  • A majority of women work in the informal sector. Currently, more than half of all employed women in the world, 53 per cent, work in vulnerable employment as unpaid family workers and own-account workers—employment that lacks security and benefits.[1]
  • In South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 80 percent of women work in vulnerable employment.[1]
  • In the majority of countries, women earn between 70-90 per cent of men's wages, with even lower ratios observed in some Latin American countries.[1]
  • Women from four Sub-Saharan African countries (Benin, Madagascar, Mauritius and South Africa) spend 3-5 times longer than men on domestic activities such as cooking, collecting water and fuel, cleaning and caring for children and the elderly.[2]
  • In most countries, women in rural areas who work for wages are more likely than men to hold seasonal, part-time and low-wage jobs.
  • In Malawi, for example, more than 60 per cent of women are in low-wage jobs compared with fewer than 40 per cent of men. The gap is even wider in Bangladesh, where 80 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men have low-wage jobs. The only exception to this pattern was found in Panama.[3]
  • Studies show that closing the gap between male and female employment rates can boost gross domestic product (GDP) in many countries-for example it can advance American gross domestic product (GDP) by 9 per cent, Eurozone GDP by 13 per cent and Japanese GDP by 16 per cent.
  • Similarly, the Asia-Pacific region, for example, is estimated to be losing $42-$47 billion annually because of restrictions on women's access to employment opportunities and another $16-$30 billion annually because of gender gaps in education.[4]
  • Green jobs in agriculture, industry, services and administration contribute to preserving:
  1. Biodiversity;
  2. Reduce energy consumption;
  3. De-carbonize the economy;
  4. Minimize of all forms of waste and pollution.
  • At least 80 per cent of global green jobs are expected to be in the secondary sectors, such as construction, manufacturing and energy production, industries where women are currently under-represented.
  • Women account for 9 per cent of the workforce in construction, 12 per cent in engineering and 15 per cent in financial and business services, and 24 per cent in manufacturing — all sectors critical to building a green economy.[5]


  • Gender inequality is a major cause and effect of hunger and poverty: it is estimated that 60 per cent of chronically hungry people are women and girls; 20 per cent are children under 5 years old.[6]
  • On average, women make up about 43 per cent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries - ranging from approximately 20 per cent in Latin America to 50 per cent in parts of Africa and Asia, and exceeding 60 per cent in a few countries;
  • Almost 70 per cent of employed women in South Asia work in agriculture, as do more than 60 per cent of employed women in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women's farms in developing countries by 20 to 30 per cent. This could raise total agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 per cent, which could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 - 17 per cent, or 100 to 150 million people.[7]


  • Today 1.7 billion people have gained access to safe drinking water since 1990, but 884 million people are still without clean drinking water;
  • An estimated 743 million people living in rural areas rely on unimproved sources for drinking water, compared to 141 million in urban areas.[8]
  • Women in sub-Saharan Africa collectively spend about 40 billion hours a year fetching water. This significantly impacts women's employment opportunities and time spent on household duties.[9]
  • Per week, women in Guinea spend 5.7 hours to collect water, compared to 2.3 hours for men and in Malawi this figure is 9.1 compared to 1.1 hours.[10]


  • 43 per cent of the global population still relies on solid fuels for household use, resulting in dramatic impacts on health, especially for women and children ;
  • Some 71 per cent of people living in rural areas use traditional biomass, primarily wood, for cooking, while 70 per cent of those living in urban areas rely on modern fuels, especially gas;
  • Worldwide almost two million deaths annually from pneumonia, chronic lung disease, and lung cancer are associated with exposure to indoor air pollution resulting from cooking with solid fuels, and 99 percent of them occur in developing countries.
  • Of the 2 million people who die each year from smoke from inefficient cook stoves, more than 85 per cent are women and children.[11]


  • Women and children are 14 times more likely to die than men during a disaster, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  • In industrialized countries, more women than men died during the 2003 European heatwave; many more African-American women were affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 than men in the United States.
  • All countries are vulnerable to natural hazards, but most of the 3.3 million deaths from disasters in the last 40 years have been in poorer nations.[12]
  • In many countries, women have subordinate positions, restricted mobility, less educational opportunity, less voice in decision-making and poorer employment, all of which increases vulnerability.
  • During Hurricane Mitch in 1998, a disproportionate number of street children in Central America were affected. Save the Children reports that more than 50 per cent of all those affected by disasters worldwide are children.[12]
  • Over the decade 2000-2010, 400 disasters accounted for 98,000 deaths and 226,000 million affected each year;
  • In 2010 alone, 373 disasters resulted in the deaths of 226,000 and affected 207,000 persons;
  • Of the 33 cities that will have at least 8 million residents by 2015, 21 are in coastal areas. Coastal flooding is expected to increase rapidly due to sea level rise and weakening of coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs impacted by sea temperature rise;


  • The world's population stands at 7 billion and is likely to rise to 9 billion by 2050.[13]
  • In urban spaces, where 50 per cent of the world now lives, women's lives are governed by the provision of services for water supply, energy, housing and public transport.
  • Twenty per cent of households in urban areas are headed by women, while taking key responsibilities in all households.
  • Sustainable development solutions can greatly improve women's lives by reducing poverty, freeing up women's time and protecting them from violence and other adverse health and environmental impact.
  • Since 1990, the share of the urban population living in slums in the developing world has declined significantly, dropping from 46 per cent in 1990 to 33 per cent in 2010. This decrease shows that many efforts to give inhabitants of slums access to improved water or sanitation, and/or more durable housing have been successful.
  • On the other hand, the absolute number of people living in slums has increased by 26 per cent over the same period, equaling 171 million additional people and raising their number from 656 million in 1990 to 827 million in 2010.[14]


  • The ocean, once thought to be a vast, resilient area able to absorb practically unlimited waste and withstand increasing human population, fishing and shipping pressures, is increasingly vulnerable.
  • Employment in fisheries and aquaculture has grown substantially in the last three decades, with an average rate of increase of 3.6 per cent per year since 1980. In 2008, 44.9 million people were employed in capture fisheries or in aquaculture, at least 12 per cent of whom were women.
  • Over 60 per cent of the world's major marine ecosystems that underpin livelihoods have been degraded or are being used unsustainably.[15]
  • More than 40 per cent of the world's population (more than 2.8 billion people) live within 100 kilometres of the coast. Rapid urbanization will lead to more coastal mega-cities containing 10 million or more people. Thirteen of the world's 20 megacities lie along coasts and nearly 700 million people live in low lying coastal areas less than ten meters above sea level.
  • It is estimated that by 2050, adverse effects associated with global climate change will result in the displacement of between 50 and 200 million people globally.[16]

[1] International Labour Organization (ILO), 2009: Global Employment Trends for Women

[2] World Bank, 2006: Gender, Time Use, and Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa

[3] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2011. The State of Food and Agriculture: Women in Agriculture, Closing the Gender Gap for Development

[4] World Bank Group study https://pslforum.worldbankgroup.org/resources/empowerment.aspx

[5] Sustain Labour, 2009, Draft Report: Green Jobs and Women Workers, Employment, Equity, Equality

[6] World Food Programme, Gender Policy and Strategy

[7] FAO, 2011. The State of Food and Agriculture: Women in Agriculture, Closing the Gender Gap for Development

[8] World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 2010 Update, Progress on sanitation and drinking-Water.

[9] UNIFEM, 2009. Progress of World's Women. Who Answers to Women? Gender and Accountability

[10] United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 2011. Human Development Report: Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All

[11] UNDP, World Health Organization (WHO), 2009, The Energy Access Situation in Developing Countries

[12] United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), 2010, Disaster trough a different lens: Behind every effect, there is a cause

[13] United Nations Population Fund, 2011, State of the World Population

[14] United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), Keeping Track of our Changing Environment

[15] UNEP, 2011. Towards a Green Economy: pathways to sustainable development and poverty eradication

[16] Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, International Maritime Organisation (IMO), FAO, UNDP, 2012, A Blueprint For Ocean And Coastal Sustainability