It’s a great pleasure to join you once again to discuss one of the most important challenges that our country is facing: improving the opportunities and well-being of Mexican women to promote a more inclusive and sustainable growth.
In recent years Mexico has taken very important actions at the policy level to promote gender equality. The National System of Equality between Men and Women, which was presided by President Peña Nieto and where I was proud to participate, had its first public working session in August 2016. This showed renewed commitment to allow a better integration of gender considerations into the policy cycle, in line with the original objective outlined in the National Development Plan 2013-2018. It also meant strong engagement to achieve better outcomes in the gender agenda and reaffirmed Mexico’s commitment to the G20 objective to reduce gender gaps in labour force participation by 25% by 2025.
However, laws and mechanisms are not enough. Mexico needs to invest in institutions and capacities to ensure that the framework delivers. Effective implementation and a change of cultural settings are crucial, as the country lags behind not only when compared with OECD countries but also to Latin American countries with similar levels of development. Only 47% of working age Mexican women are part of the labour force, compared with an OECD average of 67% and levels of around 60% in Chile, Colombia, Peru and Brazil.
The country also experiences one of the biggest gaps between male and female NEETs (not in employment, education or training) and has the highest adolescent pregnancy rate in the OECD. Even though there has been important progress in the number of women elected to the federal Chamber of Deputies, women are still underrepresented in the public sphere at the subnational level. Even worse, violence against women still affects the social fabric of the country profoundly and gender stereotypes are widespread. In many cases, television reproduces these biases, which results in even higher levels of gender inequality and gender discrimination.
These differences not only have moral and ethical implications, but also economic ones. OECD analysis has shown that halving the gender gap in labour force participation between Mexican men and women by 2040 could increase per capita GDP by nearly 0.2 percentage points, per year, over baseline projections. Mexico´s decisive actions to narrow gender gaps must therefore remain a priority. INMUJERES has played a substantive role in further enhancing gender related policy frameworks and promoting measures such as gender quotas, which have proven to be very effective and have placed Mexico as the second country in the OECD (only behind Sweden) with the highest share of women in national parliaments: 42%, well above the OECD average of 28%.
To further consolidate ongoing efforts and address pending challenges, the Mexican Government and the OECD have collaborated to produce the OECD Review of Gender Policy in Mexico. This report analyses the main areas where gender gaps exist and some of the key policies that Mexico has adopted to address them. Finally, it provides a series of recommendations to move forward, which build on the OECD Gender Recommendations on Employment, Education, and Entrepreneurship (2013) and Gender Equality in Public Life (2015).
Let me highlight some of these recommendations that I consider crucial for improving the opportunities and wellbeing of Mexican women.
First, it is very important to strengthen efforts to avoid gender stereotyping in schools and in textbooks, strengthen measures to train teachers to recognise and eliminate gender biases, and help connect young women to role models. To support Mexico on this front, the OECD will be launching a network of Mexican women role-models to show young girls that they can, and should, have higher ambitions for themselves.
It is also necessary to improve upper-secondary school completion for young women and young men, as both sexes drop out of school at high rates. Enabling young women to complete schooling by ensuring sufficient support in secondary through higher education, including by improving sexual education and ensuring access to affordable and modern contraceptives, is also key, as well as prioritising the provision of accessible and good quality childcare to young parents.
Second, stronger measures are needed to facilitate parents’ reconciliation of work and family life, both in the private and public sectors, so that mothers and fathers can earn income around childbirth and when children are young. Maternity and paternity leave are two areas that need improvement. The addition of at least two weeks of paid maternity leave – equalling a total of 14 weeks – would bring Mexico closer to international best practice. Mexico could also consider shortening the social security contribution period which determines maternity leave eligibility to ensure that more women are eligible for publicly-funded (rather than employer-funded) maternity leave.
Third, intensifying efforts to reduce informality in the labour market would go a long way towards ensuring that women are fully incorporated into the social protection system, earn fair wages, and have higher job quality. Although both sexes face high rates of informality in Mexico, there is nevertheless a large gender gap: 49.7% of men and 57.2% of women held informal (non-agricultural) jobs in early 2016. These rates have unfortunately changed little over the past decade.
Fourth, improving access to affordable and good-quality early childhood education and care, particularly for children under age three, is another necessary action. Infants and toddlers are underserved by guarderías and estancias infantiles and are too young to attend (the relatively well-provided) preschool, where Mexico has already achieved almost 90% coverage for children age 4, above the OECD average of 86%.
Fifth, it is crucial to raise awareness of violence against women at home, at work, in television, in public spaces and in politics is crucial. This could be accompanied by other measures, such as drawing a holistic and customised outreach programme co-ordinated by the government; designing measures to prevent assaults on women using context-specific knowledge; working to change norms through socio-emotional education in schools; and improving women’s access to justice and security.
Finally, the governance of the system to promote gender equality is another essential element. The OECD recommends strengthening, with the support of IMMUJERES, the requirements and capacities of line ministries and other public institutions to apply a gender analysis in the design and implementation of sectoral policies, programmes and budgets as part of the core policy-making and resource allocation processes at all levels of government.
And we need to further strengthen the National System for Equality between Women and Men (SNIMH) and support IMMUJERES in fulfilling its mandate to co-ordinate among federal agencies and with civil society, while also supporting the implementation of the National Program for Equality of Opportunity and Non-Discrimination Against Women (PROIGUALDAD).
Mexican women offer the country’s most powerful opportunity to thrive. Gender policies are not only about women, they are about the well-being of all Mexicans. They are a secure way to build a more balanced society, where individuals can succeed without confronting discrimination, having to face a difficult or unstable work environment, or feeling insecure when walking in the streets.
Applying a gender lens to policymaking and further developing family friendly policies will also have a long-lasting effect in families and societies. The OECD stands ready to support Mexico in the implementation of these measures so that its women can fulfill their potential and, in doing so, promote more sustainable and inclusive growth.