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

GDP growth: +0.6% Q3 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Sept 2017 annual
Trade: +4.3% exp, +4.3% imp, Q3 2017
Unemployment: 5.7% Sept 2017
Last update: 14 Nov 2017

E-Newsletter

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

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • The annual OECD Eurasia Week takes place in Almaty, Kazakhstan 23-25 October. Writing in The Astana Times, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría urges Eurasia countries to stay the course on openness and international integration, which has brought prosperity but also disillusionment, notably regarding inequality. The OECD is working with this key region, and Mr Gurría urges Eurasia to focus on human capital and innovation to enhance productivity and people’s well-being. Read more.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

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 2017