UN Women - United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

Facts and Figures: Economic Empowerment

Benefits of economic empowerment

  • When more women work, economies grow. If women’s paid employment rates were raised to the same level as men’s, the United States’ gross domestic product would be an estimated 9 per cent higher, the euro zone’s would climb by 13 per cent and Japan’s would be boosted by 16 per cent [1]. In 15 major developing economies, per capita income would rise by 14 per cent by 2020 and 20 per cent by 2030 [2].
  • Productivity per worker could soar by up to 40 per cent by eliminating all forms of discrimination against female workers and managers [3].
  • Europe can expect a shortfall of 24 million workers by 2040 if women’s participation rate remains what it is now; if the rate rises to that of men, the shortfall will be only be 3 million [4].
  • An analysis of Fortune 500 companies found that those with the greatest representation of women in management positions delivered a total return to shareholders that was 34 per cent higher than for companies with the lowest representation [5].
  • Evidence from a range of countries shows that increasing the share of household income controlled by women, either through their own earnings or cash transfers, changes spending in ways that benefit children [6].
  • A study using data from 219 countries from 1970 to 2009 found that, for every one additional year of education for women of reproductive age, child mortality decreased by 9.5 per cent [7]. Between 1970 and 1990, the survival of 4.2 million children stemmed from women’s increased education [8].

The world of work

  • From 1980 to 2008, 552 million women joined the labour force. Four out of 10 workers globally are women [9].
  • In the majority of countries, women’s wages represent between 70 and 90 per cent of men’s, with even lower ratios in some Asian and Latin American countries [10].
  • As of 2011, 50.5 per cent of the world’s working women were in vulnerable employment, often unprotected by labour legislation, compared to 48.2 per cent for men. Women were far more likely than men to be in vulnerable employment in North Africa (55 per cent versus 32 per cent), the Middle East (42 per cent versus 27 per cent) and sub-Saharan Africa (nearly 85 per cent versus 70 per cent) [11].
  • One global survey of companies found that only 18.3 per cent had a top-level female manager. Women comprised 31 per cent of permanent full-time workers, but among manufacturing firms, the figure plunged to 9.9 per cent [12].
  • Ethnicity and gender interact to create especially large pay gaps for minority women. In the United States, during the first quarter of 2012, Hispanic women earned on average 90 per cent of the wages of Hispanic men, but only 60 per cent of the wages of white men [13].

Essential to agriculture

  • In 2010, women made up 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force of developing countries [14].
  • Women dominate employment in high-value agricultural commodities in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. While new jobs in export-oriented agro-industries may not employ men and women on equal terms, they often provide better opportunities for women than traditional agriculture does [15].
  • Women farmers tend to produce 20 to 30 per cent less than their male counterparts because they have less access to vital inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and tools [16].
  • If women had the same access as men, agricultural output in 34 developing countries would rise by an estimated average of up to 4 per cent. This could reduce the number of undernourished people in those countries by as much as 17 per cent, translating to up to 150 million fewer hungry people [17].

The green economy, sustainable development

  • Green jobs in agriculture, industry, services and administration contribute to preserving biodiversity, reducing energy consumption, de-carbonizing the economy, and minimizing all forms of waste and pollution. At least 80 per cent of global green jobs are expected to be in industries where women are currently under-represented [18].
  • Women account for 9 per cent of the workforce in construction, 12 per cent in engineering, 15 per cent in financial and business services, and 24 per cent in manufacturing—all sectors critical to building a green economy [19].
  • From 1990 to 2010, more than 2 billion people gained access to safe drinking water, but 780 million people are still without clean drinking water [20]. Where water supplies are not readily accessible, water must be carried from its source. According to 2006–2009 data from 25 sub-Saharan African countries, women there spend at least 16 million hours each day to collect water. Men spend 6 million hours, and children 4 million hours [21].
  • In 2009, an estimated 45 per cent of the global population still relied on solid fuels for household use, resulting in dramatic impacts on health, especially for women and children [22]. Of the 2 million people who die each year from diseases caused by smoke from inefficient cook stoves, 44 per cent are children who die of pneumonia. The remaining deaths are from chronic lung disease and lung cancer, of which women bear a 60-per-cent share [23].
Notes

[1] Kevin Daly, 2007, “Gender Inequality, Growth and Global Ageing,” Global Economics Paper 154, Goldman Sachs.

[2] Calculation comprises Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russia, Turkey and Viet Nam. Sandra Lawson, 2008, “Women Hold Up Half the Sky,” Global Economics Paper 164, Goldman Sachs.

[3] The World Bank, 2012, World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development, p. 237.

[4] Ibid., p. 238.

[5] Catalyst, 2004, “The Bottom Line: Connecting Corporate Performance and Gender Diversity,” p. 8.

[6] The World Bank, 2012, World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development, p. 5.

[7] E. Gakidou, et al., 2010, “Increased Educational Attainment and its Effect on Child Mortality in 175 Countries between 1970 and 2009: A Systematic Analysis,” The Lancet, 376(9745), p. 969.

[8] Ibid.

[9] The World Bank, 2012, World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development.

[10] International Labour Organization, 2009, “Global Employment Trends for Women,” p. 19.

[11] International Labour Organization, 2012, “Global Employment Trends: Preventing a deeper jobs crisis,” p. 11.

[12] The World Bank, Enterprise Surveys on gender.

[13] Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, 2012, “Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers,” first quarter, p. 6.

[14] Food and Agriculture Organization, 2010–2011, The State of Food and Agriculture: Women in Agriculture: Closing the Gender Gap for Development, p. 7.

[15] Food and Agriculture Organization, 2011, “The Vital role of women in agriculture and rural development,” p. 6.

[16] Food and Agriculture Organization, 2010–2011, The State of Food and Agriculture: Women in Agriculture: Closing the Gender Gap for Development, p. 40.

[17] Ibid., p. 42.

[18] Sustain Labour, 2009, “Green Jobs and Women Workers: Employment, Equity, Equality,” draft report, p. 8.

[19] Ibid, p. 7.

[20] World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund, 2010, “Update: Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water,” pp. 4–5.

[21] United Nations, 2012. The Millennium Development Goals Report, p. 54.

[22] United Nations Development Programme and World Health Organization, 2009. “The Energy Access Situation in Developing Countries,” p. 2.

[23] Ibid., p. 34.

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