Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. Recommendations to governments

The 61st Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61)

CSW61 will bring together governments from around the world to discuss gender equality and to produce an  outcome  document of agreed  conclusions on 13-27  March 2017.

The priority theme this year is w omen’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, also the subject of a new report by the UN Secretary - General.

In addition, the review theme is challenges and achievements in the implementation of the  Millennium  Development  Goals  for  women  and  girls ,  revisiting  the agreed  conclusions  of  the 58th session, while the e merging issue/ f ocus area is t he empowerment of indigenous women .

This fact sheet looks at the structural economic barriers to women’s economic empowerment (WEE) and makes recommendations as to what should be included in CSW deliberations.

The Gender & Development Network (GADN) has also produced in-depth briefings on these issues that can be found on their website.

What is WEE – and why is it important?

In every country, women have fewer economic choices, less income and less control of assets than men. They are more likely to work in low pay ing , insecure jobs, often in the informal economy and without legal protection. Eighty per cent of household food is produced by women, but globally they control less than two per cent of land.

Women’s labour force participation rates are as low as 20 per cent in some regions and the glob al wage gap sits at 23 per cent, leaving women of all ages at a distinct economic disadvantage. Women also make a substantial but invisible contribution to the global economy through their unpaid care work, which in turn reduces their access to income.

There is no universally agreed definition of women’s economic empowerment (WEE) .

Any description of WEE should include women’s capacity to benefit from economic activities on terms that recognise the value of their contribution, respect their dignity and enable them to negotiate a fair distribution of returns. Other definitions suggest that women’s economic empowerment is achieved when women of all ages have equal access to and control over resources and equal participation and influence in economic decision - making.

WEE entails building women’s capacity and autonomy to exercise real p ower in their own lives, with women organi s ing themselves for change – and governments respecting, protecting and fulfilling their right s to do so.

It also requires governments to recognise and remove the social and economic barriers to women, and particularly those facing multiple discriminations of race, sexuality , migrant status or other factors . This will require full consultation with women’s rights organisations including those working with, and comprised of, the most marginalised women and op pressed peoples, whether in the Global North or South.

A complex mix of interdependent interventions is needed .

Past debates on WEE have primarily focused on providing  opportunities  for  individual  women in  the  forms  of  skills,  training  and  credit ,  while  t he  structural barriers ,  and particularly  the  economic ones, have  too  often  been  overlooked.

Every aspect of work will need to be addressed – paid and unpaid work , informal or formal employment, in the home or elsewhere. In their factsheet, GADN outline s a list of areas that we consider central to achieving progress , areas where urgent action is both needed and possible , as well as our proposed recommendations .

Download the FactSheet (PDF)


Fact Sheets