Women and money

8 March is the centenary of International Women’s Day. This year, we mark the occasion with a series of blog posts about initiatives to strengthen gender equality worldwide. In this post, Flore-Anne Messy of the OECD’s Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs  discusses women and financial education.

Elderly women in OECD countries are 30% more likely than men to be poor. Women receive $75,000 dollars less pension on average over their lifetime than men, despite living 5.6 years longer. But whatever their age, poverty rates for women in OECD countries are higher than for men.

It’s not just that women generally earn less than men. Where money is concerned, there are also big gender differences in knowledge and skills. Research in the US and other countries shows that women are less likely than men to give the correct answer to financial knowledge questions. They are also more likely to lack confidence in their own skills, be cautious investors, and to have insufficient funds for retirement. This cautious approach does have advantages but can severely impact on retirement funds. Studies in the US suggest that women’s retirement pots are, on average, a third smaller than men’s. (more…)

Changing the care-less economy

8 March is the centenary of International Women’s Day. This year, we mark the occasion with a series of blog posts about initiatives to strengthen gender equality worldwide. In this post, Rosalind Eyben, from the Institute of Development Studies and former Chair of the OECD DAC Network on Gender Equality, highlights how development policy has failed to address women’s unpaid care work.

When, twenty years ago, I became Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) working group on women in development (now the Network on Gender Equality), a key issue was the impact on women of the economic policy reforms – structural adjustment programmes – that donors had been encouraging partner countries to adopt.

Writing at that time, Diane Elson explained that because the economy has conventionally been understood in relation to making money, much of the work that takes place outside the market economy is ignored. This includes not only unpaid work in family farms and businesses but also the feeding, caring for and ensuring the well being of families and neighbours. (more…)

It’s just a human

8 March is the centenary of International Women’s Day. This year, we mark the occasion with a series of blog posts about initiatives to strengthen gender equality worldwide.

On March 26 1911, the New York Times described how 141 workers, mainly girls, died in a fire in the Triangle Shirt Waist factory. Almost a century later, it described a similar tragedy in Bangladesh.

“The factory had only one main exit, and workers had to scramble through a lone narrow stairway to escape, while others jumped from windows”, said fire official Rashidul Islam. He could have been talking about New York, where one of the journalists described the distress of a veteran police officer trying to identify the dead bodies. The reporter asked him if one of the corpses was a man or a woman, but all he could say was that it was just a human. (more…)

HIV/AIDS kills more young women than anything else

HIV/AIDS is now the leading cause of death and disease among women of reproductive age (15-49 years) worldwide. That’s the stark message coming from UNAIDS as it launches the Agenda for Accelerated Country Action for Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV.

Violence against women and girls is the key driver of the epidemic. The risk of HIV among women who have experienced violence, or fear they might experience it,  may be up to three times higher than among those who have not.  These women are less likely to have safe sex, go for HIV testing, share their HIV status and get treatment.

Their inferior social status puts women and girls at risk too.

The infection rate among young women (15-24 years) is three times higher than that of young men in some countries where men are encouraged to have more than one sexual partner and it is common for older men to have sexual relations with much younger women.

When they do get infected, women are likely to face barriers in accessing HIV prevention, treatment and care services because benefiting from services often requires time, money and the possibility to travel that men are not prepared to grant.

Women and girls can find themselves in a double bind. They have to stay at home to look after the family, including HIV/AIDS victims, thereby limiting their chances of earning money and increasing their autonomy.

The death of a partner, whatever the cause, means that many women lose everything and have to adopt what UNAIDS euphemistically calls “survival strategies that increase their chances of contracting and spreading HIV”.

The United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, is more direct: “Driven by poverty and the desire for a better life, many women and girls find themselves using sex as a commodity in exchange for goods, services, money, accommodation, or other basic necessities.”

Lack of education is also responsible.

The cheapest way to inform people about HIV prevention is through written material such as posters and leaflets. Illiterate women can’t take advantage of this information, which is one reason why they are four times more likely to believe there is no way to prevent HIV infection.


Useful links

WHO site on gender inequality and HIV

Women and health : today’s evidence tomorrow’s agenda a new WHO report reviewing evidence on the health issues that particularly affect girls and women throughout their life

The Global Coalition on Women and AIDS

The Finnish government analysed HIV/AIDS related strategies and key interventions of 25 development partners funding the HIV/AIDS related activities

OECD statistics on aid to HIV/AIDS control in official development assistance programmes

Wikigender was initiated by the OECD Development Centre to improve knowledge on gender equality-related issues around the world and facilitate information exchange