Woman at Work

With the DOW dropping to ever new lows on Wall Street even as we participate in the CSW at the UN, the undercurrent of all this talk about caretaking must be: how does the volatility of the global economy affect women’s lives around the world? Increasingly, there has been concern expressed by and among women’s organizations, networks and agencies about the impacts of not only the global financial crisis but also the food, fuel and climate change crises on women.

I was able to attend the NGO Consultation Day on the CSW this past Sunday, and participated in the workshop on how this emerging financial crisis might affect women. It proved to be quite informative, both in the basic facts provided about women and the global economy, and also about how UN politics affect the ways in which gender issues receive–or don’t receive–the budgeting required to improve the status of women around the world.

Below is an excerpt from the informational data sheet handed out at the meeting.

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How is the global financial and economic crisis affecting women?

  • Women’s jobs [worldwide] tend to pay lower wages, in part because women tend to have a higher rate of part-time employment, and are often not covered by social safety nets. Moreover, in countries without social safety nets, the impact on women is even more severe.
  • Employment losses or a slowdown in job growth is expected to contribute to growing unemployment. This finds women at the risk of being hired last and dismissed first.
  • Female-headed households are at greatest risk, with few if any savings to weather the crisis, and limited ownership of wealth and other assets, as compared to men.
  • Ethnic groups that are less powerful and immigrant groups will suffer in many of the same ways because they are similarly situated in the paid economy as women. Even in developed countries such as the US, Black and Latina women face particularly high rates of poverty.
  • The effects on women and therefore children will be transmitted through cuts in public sector budgets, due to falling tax revenues and foreign aid.
  • As food and fuel prices soar and adding stress and hardship to families, incidents of violence against women and communal violence increase.

What are policy and advocacy inputs to improve the situation for women?

  • Past experiences have shown that financial crises and neoliberal policy responses, such as Structural Adjustment Programs, have disproportionately affected women in negative ways. It is critical to recognize gender equality as a fundamental human right and an issue of social justice essential for economic growth, poverty reduction, environmental sustainability, and development effectiveness.
  • New indicators must be developed to measure the impact of gender inequality on economic growth by measuring the value of women’s unpaid work as well as by developing performance indicators to measure progress in introducing and implementing gender-responsive approach to public finances.
  • To be efficient, effective, and accountable, public finance management systems and practices need to support rather than undermine principles of participatory and gender-responsive budgeting.