Newsletter 30 May – 6 June

Check out my latest newsletter for a snapshot of my recent engagements.


WomenDeliver 2019: Merck Group Session: Healthy Women, Healthy Economies: New insights into womenomics

Promoting gender equality in paid and unpaid contributions to health care and care giving.

Panel remarks delivered at the Merck Group Session entitled “Healthy Women Healthy Economies: new insights into womenomics” at the WomenDeliver Conference in Vancouver, Canada on 6 June 2019. Moderated by Felicia Knaul, Professor, Miller School of Medicine and Director, Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas; President, Tomatela Pecho A.C. Mexico. Panelists: Christine Bugos, Vice President Global Policy and External Affairs, EMD Serono; Roopa Dhatt, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Women in Global Healht; Flavia Bustreo, Board Member, Fondation Botnar, Chair, Governance and Nomination Committee, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health.

In what ways are you – through your work or organization – engaged in reducing gaps and barriers to gender transformative programs or policy making in health care and care giving?

  • In all regions of the world, women often face the highest levels of discrimination in their own households, especially when caring and domestic responsibilities within the family are concerned.
  • To reduce gaps and barriers, first we have to measure and understand them. The OECD makes a crucial contribution in this area.
  • Let me share with you a few results from just one of our tools: the OECD’s latest Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) Results, which was released earlier this year. SIGI measures discriminatory laws, norms and practices.

Women undertake a disproportionate share of unpaid work…

  • SIGI 2019 shows that globally, women undertake 75% of unpaid care and domestic work.
  • At the global level, one person in two has negative attitudes towards “working mothers”, by thinking that children will suffer if the mother is gainfully working outside the home.
  • One person in six denies women the right to work, declaring that it is not acceptable for a female family member to have paid work outside the home because her role is to take care of both the children and the household.
  • Women disproportionately carry the burden of unpaid care for children, relatives and maintenance of the household.
  • Globally women devote an average of five hours per day to unpaid care and domestic work, compared to fewer than two hours for men.
  • In all regions, women continue to spend substantially more time in unpaid care work than men, ranging from twice as much in Europe to four times more in sub-Saharan Africa, to seven times men’s contribution in North Africa.
  • This severely limits the ability of women to participate in the labour force. In countries where women do not have access to reproductive rights and family planning, balancing caring with a career becomes even harder.
  • And yet we have so much to gain from empowering women in the labour force.
  • We know from our work with the G20 that boosting female labour market participation and reducing the gender gap in labour force participation by 25% by 2025 could add 1 percentage point to GDP growth across the OECD over the period 2013-25, and almost 2.5 percentage points if gender participation gaps were halved by 2025.

Ageing societies can increase informal, unpaid, caregiving by women

  • As well as the unpaid care provided to children, we also, increasingly, have to look at the other end of the age spectrum, at caring for elderly relatives. This is especially relevant in many OECD countries, where the population is ageing fast.
  • With rapidly ageing societies, long-term care needs are set to increase in the future.
  • The share of the population aged 80 years and over was nearly 8% in 2015 and it is expected to double by 2050 across OECD countries.
  • The bulk of care for the elderly in most countries is still provided by unpaid family carers and by women in particular. On average, across the OECD more than 60% of unpaid family carers are women.
  • Informal care is critical for the well-being of individuals and society as a whole, and many carers report that it is rewarding to undertake. However, even when caring for loved ones, it can put an extra burden on the persons who provide it.
  • There is an opportunity cost to the time that they spend providing care, as they could devote that time to paid work or leisure. Informal carers, especially those who give more than 20 hours of care per week, are more likely to work part-time or not at all. And they are 20% more likely than other people to have mental health problems.
  • This is not just about unpaid, or informal work. Women provide most of care to the elderly also in the formal system. Across the OECD, 90% of elderly-care workers are women.
  • Working conditions in this sector are often poor. Temporary work is twice as likely as in other parts of health care. Pay is low, and contracts often precarious for a job that is physically and mentally demanding: one in six elderly-care workers report that they suffer from a health problem caused by their work.
  • Unless governments regulate and properly fund elderly care services, these problems will persist for communities, families and especially women.

Share some examples of effective and innovative policies and programs to promote the equitable participation of women and men in labor markets, health care and care giving? What has made them successful?

  • Change is unfortunately very slow, and it is low because the first thing that has to change is our mindset. The gender stereotyping and cultural norms about what is good for a girl and what is good for a boy, and the expectations societies put on girls are a major obstacle for change.
  • Engaging men in care giving is vital to close gender gaps, and it is also really good for men!
  • Men who spend more time with their families are more satisfied with their lives than men who spend less time. Fathers’ involvement also has a positive effect on children’s academic performance as well as on their behavioural, social, and emotional wellbeing.
  • For decades, the OECD has been applying the gender lens across policy areas, designing, developing and delivering the best policies to advance equality. This includes non-discrimination laws; dual parental leave; policies related to taxes, infrastructure, environment; and promoting gender representation in the high ranks of the public and the private sectors, including through quotas and targets.
  • We have child policies with excellent impact in terms of supporting women to work, and we have led the charge with gender neutral text books. We have brought this to the G20 with the 25×25 gender target in 2014, to help bring 100 million women into the workforce, and more recently with the findings on Bridging the Digital Gender Divide in 2018. And we are constantly tracking progress on all these issues.

Policies to increase male participation in unpaid work

  • In an effort to get parents to share caregiving more equally, many countries now reserve part of parental leave for the exclusive use of fathers.
  • This also requires financial incentives and rules for men not to be discriminated against!
  • Access to early childhood education and care is also crucial for gender equality, empowering both parents to work when children are young. Several countries, including Canada, Japan, Korea and Poland, have increased subsidies or benefits for childcare and others, including Norway and the UK, have introduced or expanded free childcare.
  • Since 2007 in Germany, if both parents use at least two months of paid leave each, the household is granted an additional two months of paid leave, which has seen an increase of 14% in the proportion of children with a father that took parental leave.
  • Not only does this help in the early stages of raising a child, but it also breaks many stereotypes around women taking maternity leave and therefore being discriminated against in the world of work.

Policies to ensure population ageing does not deepen gender gaps

  • At the other end of the age spectrum, governments need to invest more in adequate funding for elderly care services; they need to improve working conditions and the status of workers, providing career opportunities.
  • With these actions, governments can make the sector more attractive, they can reduce the burden of unpaid care, and they can help close gender gaps, while improving the well-being of older persons.
  • Countries also need to improve benefits and services to those providing care duties and tasks for older persons. A recent study of 27 EU countries found that financial benefits were the most common form of support to caregivers, followed by respite care and training.
  • Financial benefits (paid directly to the caregiver or via the care recipient) are important and relatively common. However, they rarely compensate carers in full for the costs they incur. Moreover, take-up of informal care benefits may be low, especially where significant paperwork is involved.
    • For example, carers in France, can be paid via the main long-term care benefit, the APA, but it requires them to have an employment contract and, in practice, few people use of this provision.
    • As a result, carers seldom receive enough financial compensation to offset the opportunity cost of caregiving. So making benefits easier to claim is key, especially for people who may be already juggling paid and unpaid work as well as caring for others.
  • The evidence also shows that countries with strong social protection have greater gender equality in care giving. In fact, inadequate social protection effectively doubles the burden on women.
  • In 2013, a study found that women aged 50 and over in countries with low-level social protection (i.e. those where public spending on long-term care is less than 1% of GDP) were 41% more likely to provide daily informal care than their male counterparts.
  • The figure for their peers in countries with high levels of social protection (where public spending on long-term care exceeds 2% of GDP) was only 23%.

OECD Recommendations in laws, norms and customs

  • The OECD also makes many recommendations to tackle the underlying cultural and legal discriminations that drive gender gaps in care giving.
  • For example, SIGI 2019 recommends including legal provisions recognising women with equal right to be a head of household and guarantee equal parental authority during marriage and informal unions. In Rwanda, the legal provision granting the status of heads of household only to men was removed in 2016. Under the revised Law Governing Persons and Family, spouses are expected to manage the household jointly and have equal rights and obligations.
  • It is also critical to provide better access to basic infrastructures and public services, especially in developing countries: better access to water and energy, childcare and care for the elderly reduces the time women spend on domestic care.
    • Expanding school hours also enables women to replace time spent on childcare with more productive activities.
    • For example, in Cuba, children’s circles administered by the Federation of Cuban Women provide daily care to children from forty-five days of age until school entry. This system has substantially contributed to reducing women’s unpaid care work and enhanced women’s participation in the labour market.
    • Guaranteeing family-friendly working conditions that enable parents to balance their working hours and caring responsibilities also helps.
    • A flexible work schedule or teleworking allows women and men to choose working hours that better accommodate their caring responsibilities. In Croatia and Uzbekistan, for example, the law establishes that parents are entitled to flexible/part-time schedules.
    • Last but not least, the OECD also recommends tackling entrenched social norms and traditional views of masculinity through training and awareness-raising campaigns targeting men in order to “de-feminise” care giving and reshape existing gender norms that prevent men from assuming equal caring responsibilities. In this effort, gender neutral textbooks are particularly important.

WomenDeliver Plenary: The Power of Data and Accountability: Girls and women count, must be counted, and counted in

Panel remarks delivered on a WomenDeliver Plenary Panel: The Power of Data and Accountability: Girls and women count, must be counted, and counted it. The panel was opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Mary of Denmark. Other panelists: Alison Holder, Director, Equal Measures 2030; Julia Fillard, Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, Former Prime Minister of Australia; Ephraim Kisangala, Youth Leader; Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Envoy on Youth; Joy Phumaphi, Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Independent Accountability Panel for Every Woman, Every Child, Every Adolescent, Osvaldo Rudloff Pulgar, Executive Director, OLACEFS; Asparajita Gogoi, Co-Chair, Global What Women Want, Executive Director, Centre for Catalyzing Change.

You have been making a strong case, pushing for gender perspectives across all aspects of data, why is this important and how can other stakeholders incorporate this into their operational DNA?

  • I came to the gender equality debate quite late, largely through my work as the OECD’s Sherpa to the G20.
  • I remember so clearly it was like a blindfold had been taken off my eyes.
  • I started seeing these huge gaps and inequalities in every area. Not just gaps in employment and income, but also in opportunities, in skills, in representation in public life, in the way we raise girls and boys differently, encourage them to pursue different (mostly lower paid, less ambitious) careers, and how women are affected by policies designed mostly by and for men.
  • Once you start looking for gender gaps, you find them everywhere, because our societies remain in the grip of deeply held gender stereotypes that pervade every dimension of life, public and private, economic and social.
  • The reason I think that we are not seeing enough progress in closing these gaps, is because we are not doing enough to tackle gender stereotypes.
  • OECD data gathered through the SIGI Index shows that half of the world’s population still thinks that children will suffer when their mother is in paid employment outside the home, in North Africa two thirds of people feel this way. One in six people think that it’s totally unacceptable for women to undertake paid work outside the home, in southern Asia, it’s one in three.
  • In this climate, data has an important role to play in showing the public and also policymakers how these stereotypes manifest themselves in concrete terms, showing the damage that they cause to our societies, both men and women. Like our SIGI 2019, which shows that the current level of gender discrimination costs 6 trillion US Dollars, or 7.5% of global income.
  • Data also shows the benefits that equality brings, and that is a powerful motor for change. For example, we got gender equality on the G20 agenda, because we made the case using disaggregated data.
  • In Brisbane in 2014, we showed that reducing the gender gap in labour force participation by 25% by 2025 could bring 100 million women into the labour force and add 1 percentage point to GDP growth across the OECD over the period 2013-25, and almost 2.5 percentage points if gender participation gaps were halved by 2025.

What has been achieved as a result of access to gender disaggregated data? Take us through some examples.

  • The OECD has led the way in calling for gender disaggregated data. This was at the heart of our 2013 OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality in Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship.
  • Gender disaggregated data has the power to accurately map issues like the “motherhood penalty”:
    • On average in the OECD, the gender gap in median hourly earnings among full-time-employed men and women with at least one child was 21.2%, almost double the gap for full-time employed men and women without children (11%). We are seeing in the OECD that younger women are catching up with men, and then falling behind as soon as children enter the equation, whereas men’s careers continue to be unaffected.
  • Gender disaggregated data is also making women’s contribution to the economy fully visible, helping bring to light gender discrimination and gaps which are not picked up by conventional economic statistics:
    • The best example is measuring unpaid work in the home, which is essential to the functioning of the economy. The OECD estimates that unpaid work represents between 12% and 24% of GDP and women contribute two thirds of it, which is why in April 2017 the leaders of the G7 gave the OECD mandate to “update and disseminate its existing national accounts estimates of unpaid household activities”.
  • Applying a gender lens can also help understand the impact of policies on women, even in areas where we are not used to considering gender dimensions, for example infrastructure:
    • For instance, compared to men, women tend to rely more on public transport, travel shorter distances, and travel more during off-peak hours.
    • Unsafe and low security transports also put women at a disadvantage as they are more affected by violence and this vulnerability affects their well-being and their labour force participation.
    • Women’s exposure to pollution is also different and pollution has different impacts on them, especially when pregnant.
  • The gender-environment nexus is particularly dramatic in developing countries. In the developing world women and girls are responsible for over 70% of water and fuelwood collection. The time spent on water collection adds up to 200 million hours every day!
    • Inadequate access to sanitation and hygiene facilities also disproportionally affect poor women and girls the most. UNICEF has estimated that roughly 1 in 10 girls in Africa miss school because of their periods each year, and in India it is estimated 1 in 5 girls stop school when they menstruate.
  • Using data to understand the impacts of policies on women is essential to every policy area and to resource allocation, and yet less than half of OECD countries have introduced or plan to introduce gender budgeting, often due to a lack of data.
  • As well as better seizing the impacts of policies, gender disaggregated data can also help understand emerging challenges like the digital gender divide.
  • While more women than men complete tertiary education, only 25% of those graduating in ICT subjects are women and in G20 economies only 7% of ICT patents were filed by women. Shockingly, evidence also shows over the period 2012-17, around three-quarters of big data software packages were created by men-only teams. This results in health tracker apps that don’t track periods or voice activated devices that perpetuate gender stereotypes and struggle to understand female voices.
  • Gender disaggregated evidence from the OECD PISA survey of 15 years olds shows that gender-related differences are more related to disparities in what boys and girls think they are good at and is good for them, than to differences in what they actually can do.
    • For example, girls and boys perform similarly in science, but the share of boys aspiring to a career in engineering and computing is around four times higher than that of girls.  At age 15 far fewer girls (4.7%) than boys (18%)—even among the top performers— reported that they expect to have a career in engineering or computing. But when you look at health services (a more ‘caring’ but often less lucrative career), girls are twice as likely as boys to aspire to that career.

What are the greatest challenges we face in accessing this data; are there policy recommendations you would propose to address this?

  • It is no so much a challenge of access than a failure of political will. The data is not there, because too often it is not being measured.
  • As our Chief Statistician Martine Durand likes to say, we should measure what we treasure, not just treasure what we already measure. 
  • We need to raise the level of ambition. Look at the SDGs, the defining development challenge of our age.
  • The SDGs address gender issues twice:
    • Firstly in a dedicated SDG on gender equality: Target 5 recognises gender equality as a universal driver of sustainable development and asserts the need to accelerate efforts to end gender inequality.
    • Secondly, through the ambition to ‘leave no-one behind’: the UN Inter-Agency Expert Group on SDG indicators (IAEG-SDGs) recommends that all indicators to be disaggregated by (among other criteria) gender, when possible.
  • Yet, considerable data gaps persist. 
  • Not all OECD countries comply to the Recommendation regarding disaggregated gender data, with the largest gaps in the area of entrepreneurship. As for the SDGs, out of the 53 gender-related SDG indicators, only 32 can draw on available data.
  • For SDG 5 (gender equality), the largest data gaps are found for:
    • Target 5.2 on eliminating all forms of violence against women: 8 out of 35 OECD countries lack data! This is despite it being the top priority for OECD countries according to the 2016 OECD Gender Equality Questionnaires. The OECD is organising a global event to address violence against women on 5-6 February 2020, including the data gap issue;
    • There is also a large data gap on Target 5.4 on recognising and valuing unpaid work: 9 out of 35 OECD countries lack data;
    • In some cases data do exist but they are neither fully comparable nor timely.
  • To address these challenges we have to work to improve statistical capacity, putting an emphasis on gender disaggregated data, this applies to developed and developing countries alike.
  • The OECD has launched a Toolkit for Mainstreaming and Implementing Gender Equality, which provides a compendium of best practices, as well as practical guidance to all countries on data gathering, access, effective consultation, including with civil society, as well as statistical capacity and awareness raising.
  • The OECD is also working with UN Women through a Memorandum of Understanding to improve measurement tools, methodologies and statistical capacity related to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
  • However, it is also important to remember that just as the overall average hides women’s outcomes, women’s outcomes can also hide other inequalities.
  • Gender inequalities may interact with other inequalities, e.g. those based on geographical location, income, age and family status. It’s therefore important to have granular data that can guide the development and implementation of policies.
  • For example, in OECD countries, women aged 25 who did not attain upper secondary education live nearly five years less on average than university educated females.
  • OECD employment rates for tertiary educated women are also 33 percentage points higher than for primary-educated women.

WomenDeliver2019: OECD/Sida Event: Shaping an Empowering Narrative on Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

Keynote address delivered to open the joint OECD-Sida Event on Shaping an Empowering Narrative on Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the WomenDeliver Conference in Vancouver, Canada on 6 June 2019. Opening remarks delivered by Annika Strandhäll, Swedish Minister of Social Security.


Elizabeth Sugg, Baroness, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, United Kingdom
Sarah Hendricks, Director, Gender Equality at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Alix Peterson Zwane, Chief Executive Officer at the Global Innovation Fund
Alexandra Garita, Deputy Director of Prospera International Network of Women’s Funds
Christina Juhasz, Chief Investment Officer of Women’s World Banking Asset Management
Raquel Lagunas, Deputy Director, Gender Team, UNDP

Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us for this event devoted to shaping an empowering narrative on financing for gender equality. This is jointly organized by the OECD and the Swedish International Development Agency, a leading champion for gender equality initiatives across the world.

We know that no country in the world has yet achieved full gender equality, even the Nordics. In fact the OECD recently launched a report on supporting Nordic countries to close the gaps once and for all, which was called “Is the Last Mile the Longest?”

Unfortunately, across the world, almost all countries are struggling to provide equally outcomes and opportunities to half of their populations.

This is not only a human tragedy, but also brings great economic and developmental costs.

The OECD’s recently published Social Institutions and Gender Index examines discriminatory social institutions, gender norms, and legal barriers that hold women back and estimates that the income loss associated with discrimination amounts to 6 trillion US dollars.

SIGI also shows that these institutional, legal, and social barriers that hold women back also mean that development projects impact them differently, which has implications for financing.

Let’s take a simple example: we can invest all we want into improving education systems around the world. But without adequate gender considerations, the fact that in 112 countries parents or courts are allowed to consent to juvenile marriages or that 75% of unpaid carework globally is undertaken by women will ensure that girls ad boys of the same ages and social backgrounds will not benefit equally from these investments.

Infrastructure provides another example. We have to take the policy impacts into account. It is often assumed that women will automatically benefit from new infrastructure projects in the same way as men do, without acknowledging possible distinct impacts on women and men according to their needs and social roles.

For example, urban design plays a major role in people’s life, but the risks of uncontrolled urbanisation, urban sprawl and slums are often greater for women as they are more likely to be targets of assaults and harassment. Improved urban infrastructure with a gender perspective would demand public lighting, safe public spaces, and safe public transport to help mitigate safety-related risks that women have to face in their everyday life.

The impacts of hard infrastructure like energy and sanitation are also linked to gender. For example, in many parts of the developing world women and girls are responsible for over 70% of water and fuelwood collection. The time spent on water collection adds up to 200 million hours every day!

Infrastructure decisions can also determine access to schooling, since sanitation facilities affects teenage girls school attendance because of stigmas associated to menstruation.

This is just a few examples of why we have to apply a gender lens to everything we do and everything we finance. The OECD is working with its member and partner countries to do this.

With regard to ODA, the OECD tracks aid that focuses on gender equality and women’s empowerment using the DAC Gender Equality Policy Marker.

This is the most established tool for monitoring development finance at the global level, and it is a very powerful stocktaking tool.

The good news is that, over the past decade, both the share and amounts of ODA mainstreaming gender equality and women’s empowerment have increased steadily. In 2016-2017, the 30 DAC members committed an average of USD 44.8 billion per year, corresponding to 38% of bilateral aid integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment.

However, funding for dedicated programmes with the principal goal of achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment remains consistently below 4% of bilateral aid over the years. This is not good enough. In 2016-2017, this corresponded to less than 5 billion US dollars of aid.

Moreover, our data also shows that a very small share of ODA is allocated directly to women’s rights organisations based in developing countries.

In 2017, only 31 million US dollars of ODA was allocated directly by DAC members, even though we know that these organisations are essential to drive change towards gender equality at the local level. We can do better.

But at the OECD we are also aware that the investment landscape is changing and expanding beyond ODA, and for the better! A wider array of actors is getting involved and pushing for more equitable development. Private and public, domestic and international, bilateral and multilateral financing, are all contributing to a new, more diverse team of investors.

We must ensure that we mobilise these new forces of investment in the most equitable, inclusive, rights-based way.

Unfortunately, recent OECD analysis of development financing indicates that SDG5 is in fact the third least financially supported goal of all SDGs.[1] Thus, the key question remains: how do we ensure that all of these actors and financing types take gender equality into account and, as a minimum requirement, do not undermine gender equality in developing countries?

At the OECD, we are all about evidence, policy, and partnerships: We are using our existing data, further expanding available data, and facilitating knowledge exchange and partnerships on financing flows for SDG5, in order to increase both the quality and the quantity of financing for gender equality.

For example, official development flows from OECD countries expands beyond ODA. These other official flows include for example loans that do not qualify as ODA, and export credits in support of trade. We have found that some OECD DAC countries already analyse some of these flows against the DAC gender equality policy marker. Out of this, a third of the “other” financing flows beyond traditional aid integrate gender equality.

In addition to this, multilateral organisations have a major role to play in supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment in developing countries. Some multilateral organisations report their gender-focused ODA to the OECD using the DAC marker. In 2017, approximately 35% of multilateral organisations’ financing reported to the DAC integrated gender equality.

Also, philanthropy is a key player. Private foundations form an increasingly important part of overall development financing, and are becoming prominent in sectors such as reproductive health and health. Out of the 26 foundations that report their financial flows to the OECD, approximately 16% of this financing focusses on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Lastly, commercial finance, including blended finance is supporting women’s economic empowerment. There is today an encouragingly large range of financial instruments that seek development return from commercial financial resources, including blended finance. Many of these approaches come together under broad definitions of “social impact investing” and “gender lens investing”.

Encouragingly, According to OECD surveys, out of the blended finance funds and facilities surveyed in 2019, 55% said that their investment strategy contributes to achieving SDG5.

While we welcome the fact that the focus on gender equality for these different development funders is increasing, it is not enough.

The uncomfortable truth remains that the majority of financial flows to and in developing countries currently do not consider gender equality at all.

As a first step, we need to ensure that none of these flows undermine gender equality. This is why we have to be very concerned about any step back on access to reproductive rights and family planning, for example. 

And, in the future, we have to ensure that flows actually support gender equality directly.

With greater resources for development comes greater responsibility to ensure it is mobilized efficiently and equitably. We must keep pushing for gender lenses in all development work. Because when you put the gender gap glasses on, you see the gaps everywhere, in virtually every policy area, and at every stage of development.

Sadly, analysing and measuring the gender gaps is not enough. SDG 5 will not achieve itself, and to accelerate action we need to increase the financial flows which are directed specifically at this issue. 

I very much look forward to hearing your contributions on how to achieve this, and I invite you all to work in partnership with the OECD in this effort. Thank you.

[1] Information based on not yet published analysis by the DCD on Official Development Assistance (ODA) and Other Official Flows (OOF) mapped against the SDGs.

“Rewriting the narrative of HIStory and HERstory together: A call to the G20 and G7” Keynote at the Women’s Forum of the Americas

Keynote address delivered at the panel session “Rewriting the narrative of HIStory and HERstory together: A call to the G20 and G7” in Mexico City at the Women’s Forum of the Americas.

I would like to begin by telling you how the OECD, and myself working in the Sherpa track, managed to include gender equality in the G20 agenda. It was not easy, as this is a mostly male group focussed on “serious” issues linked with the global economy. Many Sherpas even said that gender is not an agenda for leaders!

But as the world economy continued to underperform, and we were looking for new sources of growth, for example, by enabling economies to benefit from the talent of women. At the OECD and with the ILO we made the calculations and showed that if we reduced 25% of the gender gap in labour force participation by 2025 (from different levels, Canada with 7, Tukey with 35, Saudi Arabia with 55 point difference), 100 million women would be brought into the labour force. I worked closely with two wonderful Sherpas, Heather Smith of Australia (in the Presidency), and Caroline Atkinson from the US. We also had the Japanese Sherpa, as PM Abe had developed its ‘Womenomics”as part of the Abenomics economic programme. Chapeau also to PM Trudeau and Obama, who have led the way on gender equality.  We are proud also that President Macron and all the previous Presidencies have advanced this agenda.

But there are so many areas where we need to keep advancing.

Worst of all, women are still facing unacceptably high levels of violence, and in fact when we surveyed OECD countries on their priorities for gender policy, addressing violence came out top.

Women also continue to earn substantially less than men in most G20 countries. There has been a small reduction in the gender pay gap over the past decade in nearly all G20 countries, but the average is still 17%, higher than the OECD average of around 14%.

This average hides large variations. In terms of median fulltime earnings, women earn between 30-35% less than men in Korea, India and Japan, down to a gap of 10% or less in France, Turkey and Italy. However, the pace at which the gap is closing remains weak in most countries and has even stalled in some countries in recent years.

Moreover, women are over-represented in low-paying sectors, such as the care sectors, while men are found in larger numbers in more highly-paid jobs,  like in the digital sector. In G20 countries, the share of ICT specialists that are female ranges from 13 to 32%.

And motherhood – despite all its upsides! – translates into a financial penalty for many women, contributing to the unequal share of unpaid work and preventing women from engaging fully in the labour market.  Even when women do work, they are likely to seek less competitive career paths and more flexibility than men with similar qualifications.

On average in the OECD, women spend over 4 hours a day doing unpaid work; double the rate of men.

In some G20 countries like India, women spend almost 6 hours a day in unpaid work, whereas men spend less than an hour. These gaps are present to varying degrees in all G20 and OECD countries.

Why has progress been so slow, whether it’s in representation, earnings or employment? – Because gender stereotypes and norms are embedded in our cultures. As the OECD’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) shows, gender inequalities often stem from deep-rooted and normative gender beliefs (i.e. women as primary caregivers).

They are also deeply embedded in political, economic and social structures. From a very early age, boys and girls are placed into the blue or the pink ‘box’ with its associated behaviours and expectations, girls are fragile and beautiful, and boys are courageous and risk-takers.

This reinforcement of gender stereotyping leads to the perpetuation of discrimination against women in employment opportunities. For example, OECD research from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) shows that already at the age of 15, girls are two times less likely to aspire to a career as an engineer, as a scientist, or as an architect.

And despite gains in girls’ and women’s education, girls continue to be underrepresented in the STEM fields. In OECD countries, fewer than 1 in 3 engineering graduates and fewer than 1 in 5 computer science graduates are girls. These stereotypes often translate later on into a leadership gap. We already mentioned high political office, but such gaps are present across the public and private sectors.

It is striking that, on average, only 1 in 5 board members of the largest publicly listed companies in G20 countries are women.  Likewise, in G7 countries, men are still almost twice as likely to occupy managerial positions than women.

Meanwhile, across all OECD countries, women are also around half as likely as men to be entrepreneurs.  Even in the public service, where women are employed in up to 58% of jobs, they account for less than a third of senior positions. This highlights a recurring trend: the higher the position, the lower the proportion of women.

Nevertheless we are making progress. Some countries have been quite successful in narrowing gender gaps. All G20 countries have experienced an increase in labour force participation of women, with particularly large reductions in the gender gap in Japan, Argentina, Brazil and Korea. In around half of G20 members, the decline in the gender gap is in line with, or better than, the expected decline to meet the target. The actual decline was noticeably greater than the expected decline in Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Of course, this is just the beginning, there is so much still left to be done.

Working on these topics has helped us socialize effective tools. Quotas as we know, are one important example. Best performing countries have relied on them, and we should not disqualify them. I am sure that nobody questioned whether President Obama benefited from Affirmative Action in Harvard. What counts is his legacy. The same for women as it will take forever if we do not rely on it.

Dual parental leave is also a key tool, and I remember that the UK  had interesting frameworks (my friend the former UK Ambassador took one year to take care of twins, to be later recompensated be being first in the line for good postings. I remember also a Director General for global affairs, who was DG for Monday and Tuesday, as there was another recent mother who was for the rest of the week.

The OECD is also leading initiatives to break down stereotypes, including here in the Mexico through STEMNinaspueden, which is inspiring girls with positive role models of women building successful careers in STEM fields. We must have our minds open to a different set of options.

We also need transparency and legislation against unequal pay, lack of women on boards and underrepresentation amongst CEOs. Companies are really lagging behind.

We are an economic organization and were focusing on economic issues, but as I mentioned when we asked our Members about their priorities we confirmed that there is a major problem in violence against women. This has to stop, which is also why we are working on toxic masculinities, which underpin violence a stereotypes. The most effective tool to rebalance the gender gaps and treat women with dignity, is to educate women and men for respect and inclusion, and to change the way we educate boys. It is about family friendly policies, it is about more caring and humane societies, it is about more sustainable economies.

We need to build a better world for women and men.  There is so much to be done when we see the way in which women are treated and how much they have to endure even raising children alone, as my sister did (she had all the power and strength, and succeeded, but so many through no fault of their own do not). So many are left behind and alone, and at the bottom of the bottom, the porest of the poor are often women. I recently met Michael Kaufman during OECD Week and heard about how many more men are speaking out in favour of gender equality, and everything men have to gain from a gender equal world. The outcomes we are getting in all fields in the social and world economy, with deepening divides, exclusion, violence, rejection of multilateral approaches and increased populism, tell us that this has to change.

This is why we also supported the creation of the W20, and continue strengthening the gender chapter in the G7, G20.

The most pressing danger going forward is that the good outcomes we have achieved are at risk, as are all the multilateral agendas when major countries in the world have chosen confrontation and exclusion above international co-operation. Not only on gender, but including on gender. We cannot even mention reproductive rights now! So in the fight to promote women’s empowerment, we should continue to build a more friendly, co-operative world. These two agendas go hand in hand and reinforce each other, so I call on you to keep the fight, and as UN women say, push back against the push back!

Meet the Author: Michael Kaufman The Time Has Come: Why Men Must Join the Gender Equality Revolution

Meet the Author Session with Michael Kaufman, author of The Time Has Come: Why Men Must Join the Gender Equality Revolution at the 2019 OECD Forum.                    

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Can I just begin by saying that I am so delighted to be introducing a male champion of gender equality. Michael is one of the foremost Ambassadors for men to join the effort to empower women.

He is the co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign—the largest international network of men working to end violence against women.

For decades he has been an advisor on gender equality to the United Nations, governments, NGOs, schools, and workplaces around the world.

His new book, The Time Has Come: Why Men Must Join the Gender Equality Revolution, is a timely manifesto for why men must take a stand in the fight for gender equality, and a reminder of everything society has to gain from it, including what men have to gain.

Michael, this goes to the core of the OECD’s work on gender.

For decades, the OECD has been applying the gender lens across policy areas, designing, developing and delivering the best policies to advance equality. This includes non-discrimination laws; dual parental leave; policies related to taxes, infrastructure, environment; and promoting gender representation in the high ranks of the public and the private sectors, including through quotas and targets.

We have child policies with excellent impact in terms of supporting women to work, and we have led the charge with gender neutral text books. We have brought this to the G20 with the 25×25 gender target in 2014, to help bring 100 million women into the workforce, and more recently with the findings on Bridging the Digital Gender Divide in 2018. And we are constantly tracking progress on all these issues.

However, change is very slow, and it is low because the first thing that has to change is our mindset. The gender stereotyping and cultural norms, what is good for a girl and what is good for a boy, and the expectations societies put in girls are a major obstacle for change.

And this is where the story of men is so relevant and I would like to thank Michael.

I was not a gender champion a decade ago, but when you get to know the facts, it’s about nothing more than fighting for what is fair.

But my conclusion is similar to what Michael tells us in his book. The same cultural norms that hold women behind, put a lot of pressure on men to conform to ideas and ‘rules’ about masculinity that prevent them having more meaningful lives.

An OECD study on “engaging boys and men” concluded that when fathers spend more time at home, there are great benefits: fathers’ involvement has a positive effect on children’s academic performance as well as on their behavioural, social, and emotional wellbeing.

Fathers who spend more time caring for and being with their children are also more satisfied with their lives than those who engage less.

Once when I was in Japan I was addressing a mostly male audience, and when I was asked something about gender, given the context, I just said that more humane working hours, and time to enjoy your children was good for men and women.

But getting the policy settings right involves a wide range of measures. OECD evidence on masculinities shows that of course family friendly policies, including paid parental leave are key.

But it’s also important to change curricula, including for early childhood education, to stop gender stereotypes even before they can take hold. It’s also important to promote media and awareness-raising campaigns to challenge stereotypes, including in adverts.

Michael, now I pass the floor to you, changing stereotypes is the core of your book, so please we look forward to hearing from you about why should men join the gender equality revolution?

Follow-up question 1:

What will it take to change these masculinities and the role models for men so that we can really build better more liveable societies?

Follow-up question 2:

How do we push back on the push back against women rights, as the UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka would say?

Follow-up question 3:

We’ve seen enormous changes in women’s lives over the past fifty years. Are we seeing any comparable changes among men?

Follow-up question 4:

There’s been a backlash against women’s right going up to the highest levels of government. Are you optimistic about the future of gender equality?

2019 OECD Forum Panel on “Towards a New Societal Contract”

Remarks as delivered in Paris, France at the 2019 OECD Forum. Opening remarks for the panel on “Towards a New Societal Contract” with panelists:

  • CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board and Management Board, Aegon N.V.
  • Maria João Rodrigues, Vice-President of the S&D Group, European Parliament; President, Foundation for European Progressive Studies
  • Dennis Snower, President, Global Solutions Initiative
  • Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of the Arts (RSA), UK

Opening Remarks

  • Thomas Hobbes theorised the notion of a “social contract” in 17th century England, during the Civil War, as a way to clarify the rights and responsibilities that bind citizens to one another and to the State.
  • In the first half the twentieth century, countries radically re-thought the social contrat and undertook massive welfare reforms. We need ambition on this scale.
  • In our interconnected world, this will require action at the international level. Paradoxically, we are seeing a retreat from multilateral approaches.
  • But people want a stronger social contract. Across 19 countries covered by the OECD Risks That Matter survey in 2018, 70% of respondents said government should do more to ensure their economic and social security. We have to listen to that call!
  • Why are people angry? Let’s take a look at the numbers:
  • We are seeing rising inequalities. Across the OECD the richest 10% now earn on average nine and a half times more than the poorest 10%, up from seven times in the 1980s. Wages have been stagnating for a decade.
  • Wealth inequalities are even worse with the top 10% capturing almost half of total wealth, and the bottom only 3%.
  • Economic vulnerability has risen. Over one-third of people in OECD countries would fall into poverty if they had to forgo 3 months of their income.
  • The digital revolution brings additional fears and may deepen divides.
  • According to our estimates, 14% of jobs are at high risk of automation across OECD and a further 32% will undergo significant changes, with low-skilled workers most at risk.
  • We are also seeing the rise of non-standard work, impacting job security, protection and collective bargaining and bringing negative impacts on career prospects and earnings.
  • Many of the traditional pillars supporting the social contract are under pressure.
  • Social mobility has stalled in many OECD countries. In an “average OECD country”, it could take up to five generations (or 150 years) for children of poor families to reach the average level of income.
  • Even the middle class is struggling. The OECD’s Squeezed Middle report found that over the past 30 years across OECD countries the median income has grown a third less than the average income of the top 10%. Half of middle-income households struggle to make ends meet.
  • We need to adapt our social contract to the 21st century:
  • Digitalisation is exposing gaps in our current education, training and social protection systems. In some OECD countries, non-standard workers are 40 to 50% less likely to receive income support during a period of unemployment.
  • The capacity for social dialogue has weakened. The share of workers who are members of a trade union has shrunk from 30% in 1985 to 16% in 2016.
  • To restore social mobility, education, health and family policies all have a role to play, so do effective social protection and tax and transfer systems.
  • The OECD is helping to address these challenges through our Inclusive Growth Initiative and our New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC)
    • When Robert Skidelsky came to the OECD he said that ‘bad economics makes bad policies’. He hit the nail on the head.
    • We need to rethink our economic assumptions, models and frameworks, and put people at the centre, drawing on a range of social sciences.
    • We need a growth model that introduces equity and sustainability considerations ex ante, instead of assuming you can distribute or clean after you grow.
    • Through its Framework for Policy Action on Inclusive Growth, the OECD has developed a dashboard of 24 inclusive growth indicators to monitor progress.
  • To rebuild our social contract for the digital age, we must focus on restoring trust:
    • Trust has been one of the casualties of the crisis. Only 4 in 10 citizens in the OECD trust their Government.
    • To promote trust, policy-making must become more inclusive. Digital technology can help make governments more responsive and accountable through open government initiatives, participatory democracy and public sector innovation.

Discussion Points:

How would you define the social contract?

  • Social contract is a complex notion but to simplify one could say that it boils down to people’s expectations around what rights and responsibilities should look like, with respect to both their individual and collective dimension.
  • At the OECD we look at these areas in terms of “outcomes that matter to people”, as in our Well-Being Framework. Our focus on inclusive growth, and going beyond GDP, is about putting the social contract into action.
  • When defining the social contract, it is equally important to understand what are the risks against which people want to be protected.
  • The OECD is working to map social protection and risks, notably through its Risks that Matter survey, in order deliver more effective social policies and better adapted safety nets. The new OECD Jobs Strategy puts emphasis on the risks and challenges created by digitalisation and the Future of Work. It also focuses on the role that social dialogue and collective bargaining can play in mitigating these risks and responding to these challenges, which is why we are supporting the Global Deal.

Wage stagnation

  • Headline message: Wages have stagnated for large segments of the labour force, despite the recovery in employment following the Global Financial Crisis.
  • Data: In OECD countries, annual growth in nominal hourly wages dropped from 4.8% on average in the pre-crisis period to 2.1% in recent years.

Trade Union membership and Collective Bargaining Coverage

  • Headline message: Trade union membership and collective bargaining coverage have been declining in most advanced economies.
  • Data: The share of workers who are members of a trade union has shrunk from 30% in 1985 to 16% in 2016; the share of workers covered by a collective agreement has shrunk from 45% to 32% over the same period.
  • Recommendations:

Facilitating the emergence of new forms of social dialogue and accompanying the efforts of unions and employer organisations to expand their membership – also to non-standard workers – will be critical.

On the situation of the Middle Class

  • Headline message: Increasingly, pressures on the middle class are translating into a sense of anxiety about their economic situation.
  • Data and facts: Many middle class households view the socio-economic system as unfair: 58% of middle-income households in OECD countries feel that, given the taxes they pay, they do not receive their fair share of benefits and public services.
  • The cost of education, healthcare and especially housing have risen well above inflation over the past 25 years. House prices alone have grown 3 times faster than the median household income.
  • Labour market prospects are increasingly uncertain for many in the middle class. Mid-level skills no longer guarantee making it to the middle-income group. Moreover, one in six middle-income workers are in jobs that are at high risk of automation.

Social mobility

  • Headline message: As income inequality has increased since the 1990s, social mobility has stalled, meaning that fewer people at the bottom have moved up while the richest have largely kept their fortunes.
  • Data and facts: Families and communities in many countries seem to be trapped on the bottom rungs of the social ladder, particularly since the early 1980s. This means that children born into the bottom of the income distribution have less chance to move up and improve their occupational status and earnings than their parents and previous generations (“sticky floor”). At the other end of the scale, there is a “sticky ceiling” because inequality also means that those at the top of the income distribution may remain there for a long time.
  • In an “average OECD country”, it could take five generations (or up to 150 years) for children of poor families to reach the average income in their country.
  • Socio-economic status heavily influences employment prospects, job quality, health outcomes and education. For example, children whose parents did not complete secondary school have only a 15% chance of making it to university compared to a 60% chance for their peers with at least one parent who achieved tertiary-level education.



Launch of OECD Report “Addressing problematic opioid use in OECD countries”

Opioids Cover

Thank you to Sharon Armstrong – Chargée d’affaires at the Canadian Permanent Delegation to the OECD. I am grateful to Canada and to Deputy Minister Kennedy for the support they provided to the OECD for this work on this critical health emergency unfolding across countries, which is the opioid crisis.

I am grateful that we have this opportunity to  discuss it together today, to look at the scale of the problem, the root causes and the policy solutions.

The report we are releasing today – Addressing problematic opioid use in OECD countries – paints a very stark; a very worrying; a very tragic picture. A major opioid crisis has emerged over the past few years, especially in North America, which is devastating families and communities.

  • In Canada alone there were more than ten thousand opioid-related deaths between January 2016 and September 2018. Death rates increased from 8.4 per 100,000 people in 2016 to 11.8 in 2018, in just two years.
  • In the United States, more than 13 persons per 100,000 people died because of opioids in 2016 alone. Between 1999 and 2017 399 230 people have died from an opioid overdose in the US.
  • Other countries are not immune either, Australia also is suffering a high number of opioid-related deaths. So is Estonia, Sweden and Norway among European countries.
  • Use of opioids has been rising in many population groups, in some cases even in unexpected groups of people. For example, the United States have seen a raise of opioid abuse among pregnant women, especially among those with a lower level of education and a lower income.
  • Some groups are particularly vulnerable. In the United States, having a mental health disorder is also associated with a two-fold greater use of prescription opioids. Prisoners too are vulnerable. The prevalence rate of opioid use disorders in Europe was less than 1% among the general public but 30% in the prison population.

There are a number of factors that have fueled this crisis.

First, it has not occurred in a vacuum but in a specific context. Social and economic conditions, particularly of vulnerable groups of the population, have contributed to the opioid crisis. A recent study in the United States found that as county unemployment rates increase by one percentage point, the opioid death rate per 100 000 rises by 3.6%.

However, causality is complex, with some studies suggesting a reverse causality, claiming that it is problematic use that leads to an increase in unemployment. Clearly we need to get a better understanding of the forces at work.

The report also highlights the lack of housing as a factor, showing that an unstable housing situation increases problematic use of opioids and other drugs by preventing people from accessing treatment and exacerbating psychiatric symptoms.

Without a doubt, a key factor has been the increase in prescription and over-prescription of opioids for pain management.

The estimated amount of prescription analgesic opioids that is used annually has increased over the past 15 years in OECD countries. The sharpest increase happened in the 2000s, when a growth of around 58% was observed between 2002 and 2007!

The second contributing factor is a growing illicit drug market – which has greatly increased the availability of cheap and high-purity illicit opioids.

Finally, the crisis is also a result of limited access to preventive actions and treatments to minimize the terrible consequences of Opioid Use Disorder. And of the stigma and unemployment and housing problems suffered by these persons.

The message of this report is clear: Opioid Use Disorder needs to be considered a chronic health condition and we need to treat the opioid crisis as a public health crisis with an integrated people-centred set of policies.

More specifically, countries need to prevent overuse of opioids with actions to steer the behavior of patients and prescribers, while providing adequate access to pain management treatment and information about problematic use.

Of course, we have to look at the role opioid manufacturers have played in escalating the crisis. During the late 1990s and the 2000s, opioids manufacturers conducted marketing campaigns and funded third party advocacy groups, targeted at physicians, patients and policymakers, downplaying the problematic effect of opioids and opposing tighter regulations. We have to get the regulatory settings right to protect people from harm.

Countries need to improve treatment received by people with Opioid Use Disorder by strengthening the integration of health services, social policy interventions – such as unemployment and housing support – and criminal justice systems. Finally, there is a need for better research and strong health information systems.

It is urgent to take decisive action to stop the tragic loss of life and address the terrible social, emotional and economic costs of addiction with better treatment and health policy solutions.

I look forward to hearing about today’s discussion and the national perspective on what can be done to end this terrible crisis.