States must prioritize gender equality in social and economic policies to prevent global economic crises — new UN Women report

Date: 03 October 2014

More than seven years after the global economic crisis erupted, women and men are still experiencing lasting impacts on their jobs, livelihoods, access to social services and ability to care for one another. Decisive action is needed to advance women’s right to a decent standard of living and to address the underlying causes that led to the crisis, according to a new report from UN Women.

The Global Economic Crisis and Gender Equality coverpage
Mainstream policy responses have largely ignored the particular challenges that women face, making UN Women’s analysis critical in shining a light on approaches that promote the well-being of women, their families and their communities.

Austerity measures imposed by governments, which include cuts to social programmes such as health care, early childhood education, free school meals, services for disabled persons, and subsidized food, fuel and transportation, have the greatest impact on women, who take on the bulk of paid and unpaid work needed to care for children, the elderly and others in need.

Women’s jobs are also at risk, due to cuts in public sector employment, traditionally a source of better-protected and more empowering work.

In its report, UN Women recommends three strategies to shift public policies away from damaging measures that are penalizing low-income households, and especially women within those households, and have reinforced inequality, social malaise and prolonged recession.
In line with their human rights commitments, the report says States should prioritize:

  • Job creation and livelihood support to enhance women’s right to work and rights at work. Economic and social policies that provide women with the income-earning opportunities, protections and skills that they need to recover from the crisis, as well as to benefit from, and contribute to, economic recovery and prosperity.  
  • Better regulation of the financial sector is needed to prevent future crises. A financial transaction tax is also recommended to curb speculation and risk-taking and generate resources to invest in people and the ‘real economy’.
  • Investment in social protection, social services and the care economy, to ensure affordable, accessible and quality social services, and by taking pro-active measures to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work. Not only are these social investments good for poverty eradication and gender equality, they also directly impact productivity and economic recovery.