New times, old perspectives?

Why is gender still an issue? Idea Factory
Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, works on the OECD project on gender

The long road towards gender equality has arrived at greater educational attainment, higher female labour force participation, and advances in politics and business, but we haven’t reached the end yet. 

Even though in OECD countries 40% of women versus 31% of men obtain a tertiary degree, only 65% of women versus 79% of men participate in the labour force, and they earn 16% less than men and face a higher risk of poverty in old age. With few exceptions, women’s representation on corporate boards is under 15% and in parliaments it is rarely above 35%.

Why do the old challenges persist? Partly because the “new” role of women in the economy has not translated into a change at the family level. Women devote over two hours a day more to unpaid work than men in OECD countries (and up to five hours more in other countries).

Although it is hard to disentangle the influence of family, social attitudes, institutions or the working environment on choices, allowing equal economic opportunities is an important long-term investment for individuals and society alike. 

Indeed, as well as the moral imperative, women’s active contribution to the economy results in better use of human resources and greater potential growth. It also helps to address growing demographic concerns and to promote innovation and competitiveness in business.

In that regard though, the number of women enrolled in science courses is still higher than the number of women actually employed in research or other technical fields, partly because of the organisational structure of the workplace. Male-dominated environments can be an obstacle for a woman, especially if as a mother she has to put in long hours and travel at short notice.

That said, men might be under pressure too. What does your average employer think when his male employee takes sick leave because his children are ill or says no to a business trip because of an upcoming birthday?

It is clear that equality does not take care of itself and that policy interventions are required. But this should be complemented by men and women joining forces and sharing responsibilities. Dad can cook the dinner and let Mum take the kids to the football game. 

Read the Idea Factory debate in OECD Yearbook 2012

See also: 

www.oecd.org/gender/equality

and www.oecdobserver.org/gender

©OECD Yearbook 2012




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Editor's choice

  • Internet policy video
  • As the Internet transforms the way people, businesses, and economies work, what policies do governments need to implement so that everyone benefits from the digital economy?
  • "About 53% of foreign bribery cases involved corporate management or CEOs." Read more in the OECD Foreign Bribery Report
  • France 24 – Eurozone weakness threatens global economy: The Eurozone could get stuck in a “stagnation trap" without decisive action and poses a risk to the entire global economy.
  • [Video] If Africa aided Norway: Radi-aid challenges clichés.
  • [VIDEO] Migration is constantly evolving. Around one in ten people in the developed world today is an immigrant. And over the past decade, migrants have accounted for 70% of the increase in the working-age population in the OECD area, according to the OECD’s latest International Migration Outlook.
  • More fiscal stimulus could help Japan: speaking with CNBC, Randall Jones, Head of Japan/Korea Desk at OECD, warns that Japan needs a detailed and credible fiscal consolidation plan.
  • Modest global economic forecasts, continuing high unemployment and serious downside risks should spur governments with a greater sense of urgency to fully employ monetary, fiscal and structural policy levers to support growth, notably in Europe, according to the OECD’s latest Economic Outlook.
  • OECD Employment Outlook 2014: The OECD Employment Outlook 2014 includes chapters on recent labour market developments with a special section on earnings, job quality, youth employment, and forms of employment and employment protection.
  • Try our latest OECD Observer crossword!
  • Better Life Index
    How do you measure a Better Life? The OECD has launched a new interactive infographic where visitors can explore the priorities of people worldwide. Be a part of it. Create and share your Better Life Index.

Most Popular Articles

Subscribe Now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Poll

Is deflation a major risk in OECD economies?

Yes
No
Don't know

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2014