“It is through gainful employment that woman has traversed most of the distance that separated her from the male, and nothing else can guarantee her liberty in practice.”
-Simone de Beauvoir
If more women earned and controlled their own money...
almost all measures of human development would improve, including economic growth, poverty and inequality, health and education, and in the long-run potentially peace and security. But the proportion of women who are employed globally has fallen to 43% (compared to 67% for men), and there are an estimated 1.7 billion non-employed women in the world today. These women represent a vast, untapped source for human development.
As the vast majority of non-employed women live in just ten high-population countries, with more than 50% in India, China, the USA, and Pakistan, their labor market engagement has global implications. And just as importantly, in the smaller population countries with extremely low (<20%) female employment, most of which are in the Middle East, increasing women’s employment could yield major national and regional development returns and even peace and security dividends.
Accordingly, all countries should make increasing women’s employment a central plank of national development and security policies by setting ambitious targets to increase the female employment to population ratio to above 60% by 2025 and to above 70% by 2030. To achieve this, countries should endorse policies and implement programs that simultaneously increase the supply of women who are “work-enabled” and the demand for their employment. It is important that all policies and programs are designed to specifically benefit women on the lowest incomes and women with dependent children, as they so often face the steepest barriers to earning incomes. Prioritizing progress among these women should also maximize reductions in poverty and inequality and improvements in population health. The ultimate goal is to equalize male and female employment to population ratios over time.
The United Nations (UN) and its agencies should elevate women’s employment to center stage in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ensure that all agencies understand the primacy of women’s incomes to development, and incorporate a women’s employment agenda into their programs. Getting back on the convergence track with male and female employment to population ratios could drive the next wave of global growth and development.
Updated August 2022
Back On Track
Equalizing women's & men's employment to population ratios could drive the next wave of global development. #JustActions
Most women live in societies where access to money determines quality of life. Money is required to buy food and clothing, housing, healthcare, education, and transportation. But most women do not enjoy the same access to money as men do, and the freedom and control that it offers, with disastrous consequences for the quality of their lives.