Gender and Inequality: Work, Care, and Human Rights in Global Perspective


– I am, indeed, Janet Gornick, professor of Political
Science and Sociology here at the Graduate Center,
and as Chase mentioned, I’m the director of LIS, the Cross-National Data
Center in Luxembourg and its satellite office, the LIS Center that’s here at the Graduate Center. LIS is a well-known and
heavily used data archive that’s long provided the
ingredients for research on socioeconomic inequalities
across countries and over time. As most of you know, I’m
sure, interest in inequality has exploded during the last
approximately five years. An enormous conversation is
now underway in New York City, across the United States,
and around the globe about inequality, and it
was catalyzed, I think, by the Occupy movement, the
global financial crisis, and the great recession,
and then intensified by new lines of scholarship and journalism and political activism. Economic inequality is now
receiving more attention than it has in decades, if ever. Many of us who work on economic inequality for a number of years have
watched this burst of attention with interest and amazement,
and most importantly, we’ve been gratified to see
the diverse initiatives, related to inequality, to
understanding inequality, are now being
institutionalized, broadened, and structured for sustainability. And as Chase mentioned, the
graduate center is committed to and responding to this
growing conversation. We’ve hosted a number of
programs, as he mentioned, related to income inequality,
and most of these have focused substantively on
the distribution of income across households and how
that’s changed and varied, or how that’s varied across countries and changed over time, and
we’ve been very pleased and proud to host many of
the world’s top scholars in the field, including Tony
Adkinson, Thomas Piketty, Joseph Stiglitz, Angus Deaton, and our own Paul Krugman
and Branko Milanovich. So, we’ve learned a great
deal about income distribution from these scholars and from their work. I think it’s fair to say,
though, that this valued work has been limited in at least two ways. First, it has focused largely
on high-income countries, and second, much of this
highly-celebrated work has concerned the economic
well-being of households, rather than individuals,
and that has rendered crucial axes of inequality
nearly invisible. That’s surely true with
regard to gender inequality, which has barely been
mentioned in so many of the recent high-profile conversations. So tonight, I’m pleased
that we’ll shift gears, and we’ll shine a bright
light on several interrelated questions that concern gender inequality, and as we do that, we’ll broaden the lens from high-income countries
to, as best we can, consider gender disparities
throughout countries and regions at various levels
of economic development, cross-cutting the global north and south. Feminist scholars have
emphasized, in recent years, that economic gender
gaps are hardly uniform within countries. They intersect with
class, race, ethnicity, nativity, and disability. They also shape up differently, of course, in different countries and in
different parts of the world. So, here at the Graduate
Center, we began to envision an event this fall related
to gender inequality, and we were thrilled when the
opportunity fell into our laps and focused tonight’s event around the UN Women’s new report, Progress of the World’s
Women: Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights. On a personal note, I know
the report was underway. I was actually a contributing researcher, but when the finished report appeared, I was amazed and delighted when I realized how extraordinary and comprehensive it is, so it’s a pleasure to
partner with UN Women on this event this evening,
and to have the opportunity to showcase this impressive report. The report itself covers a
massive amount of territory, too much for a single evening. Tonight, we won’t try to
cover the entire report, but instead, we’ll
focus on a section of it that lays out 10 priorities
for public action. In fact, we’ll focus on only five of them, the five that most squarely
address economic disparities. By way of a quick preview,
these calls to action include creating more and better jobs for women, reducing occupational
segregation and gender pay gaps, strengthening women’s
income security throughout the life cycle, recognizing,
reducing, and redistributing unpaid care and domestic
work, and investing in appropriate social services. So, starting in just a few minutes, we’ll begin by discussing
UN Women’s decision to cast this massive global study within a human rights framework. We’ll then turn to each of
these five action items, discussing them one at a
time, and we’ll close with the consideration of some national
and regional specificities. We’ve said for all of them
that we’ve saved the last 15 minutes to take
questions from the audience. Before we get started, then, let me briefly introduce the panelists. It’s really my pleasure to
add to the roster of speakers in this series over the
last couple of years by introducing these
extraordinary scholars. Some of you may have
noticed that we’re missing one of the panelists who
appeared in the publicity for this event up until today. We were expecting
Juliana Martinez-Franzoni from the University of Costa Rica, but she came down with
the flu, and her doctor forbid her from getting on the airplane. We will definitely miss
Juliana this evening. I think she’s watching the livestream. Juliana, we miss you, especially her expertise on women’s work in social policy in Latin America, but we’ll do our best to push along. So, first, I want to introduce,
on the far right, here, Shahra Razavi. Shahra is chief of the
Research and Data Section at UN Women, where she
served as research director of the report that we’re
highlighting this evening. Before joining UN Women,
she headed the gender and development program
at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, UNRISD in Geneva. Shahra specializes in
gender and development with a focus on women’s work,
social policy, and care. Next to Shahra in the
middle there is Gita Sen. Gita is Distinguished
Professor and Director at Ramalingaswami Centre on
Equity and Social Development of Health at the Public
Health Foundation in India and she’s also adjunct
professor of global health and population at Harvard’s
School of Public Health. Gita’s work has, for many
years, included research and policy advocacy on
the political economy of globalization and
economic liberalization, the gender dimensions
of population policies, and the interplay between
gender and women’s health and human rights. And finally closest to me
we welcome Nancy Folbre. Nancy is Professor Emerita
of Economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her research concerns
the interface between feminist theory and
political economy with a particular focus on the
work of Caring For Others. She is the author of
many books, including the renowned Invisible Heart. Her contributions to the
field of feminist economics earned her the MacArthur
Award and it’s a particular pleasure to welcome Nancy
to the Graduate Center as I’ve had the pleasure
of collaborating with her on several occasions,
so let’s get started. Okay. Okay, I want to begin by
asking each of our panelists to make some very brief
remarks to get us started, just about two or three minutes each. As I just said up there on the podium, an interesting and promising
development has unfolded in recent years and that is this new and sustained attention
being paid to care, to the idea of care,
and this attention paid to care is cutting across
theoretical and empirical research, advocacy, and policy making. It’s encompassing paid and unpaid care and it considers the care of the person throughout the life
cycle, that is from birth until the end of life. So care is only one component
of this new UN report and our discussion
tonight will go way beyond issues related to care,
but because it’s so central to gendered divisions of
labor, both paid and unapid, I want to start there. Of all the different
ways contributed to the visibility of the care
economy as a research issue and a public policy
concern, can you tell us how and why caring became so central to your work? Gita, will you start us off? – Sure. I’m a little afraid, though, that what I’m going to say is going to date me. (audience laughs) But in the 1970s when I was teaching here at the New School in the graduate faculty in the Political Economy
department and we used to have thriving debates about gender inequality, development, and so on. That was when wages for housework were starting to be seen. Now as I said, for those of you have never heard of wages for
housework, it was something we used to argue vigorously about at that time and wages for housework in some senses was a
counterposition to what was largely the position
that said that the work that women do at home contributes to social reproduction, to the value of labor power, as we used to call it in those days, and was
important for that reason. None of it was called the caring economy at that point, but it of course grew into and became what then many years later came to be called the care economy. Just one other point, I
think in my own trajectory on this work that’s
important is that when I went back to work in India in 1981, pretty soon it became
clear to me that the ways in which women talking
about domestic work, unpaid work, and so on in New York was very different from what was important or relevant in the Indian context. And it was different in a number of ways. Unpaid work and care
work really needed to be distinguished from each
other and were not the same whereas in fact they
tended to be almost seen as the same when we were talking about it here in New York. So you would have unpaid family member which meant the women
and children were at home helping out with the
sewing up and whatever else they may be doing. And that was very different from what was called domestic work, which was much wider what then later came to be called care work, which
included such things as fetching water and fuel and fodder, taking care of kitchen gardens, and so on, which in some senses would be called subsistence work, but which clearly was connected to feeding people
and taking care of them in the household. So the easy sort of distinctions which an advanced capitalist economy made possible between care and home care, or between domestic work and
non-domestic work, simply were much muddier when you get into a developing country context and in my own work, of
course, I went ahead to look at some of that and how one might think about it. – So Gita was largely responsible for my first teaching job as an adjunct at the New School in 1979, so I think our starting points were pretty similar. I had from the outset a real interest in measurement evaluation of unpaid work and I actually got a lot
of grief from people, very productive grief
and criticism, around the issue of, well,
it’s gotta be different. What’s different about it? Why are you treating it as though it’s exactly the same? And that kind of got me very interested in the distinctive motivations and kind of social contacts in which
care work takes place. It also led me to question the assumption that all of care work
is unpaid or only takes place in the home. And so it led me into what I thought was a really interesting
philosophical exploration. What makes care work
distinctive, whether it’s paid or unpaid? And I think that’s largely concern for the well-being of other people. And it’s such an amazing,
interesting paradox that society depends
so heavily on this work and yet it is so under-rewarded
and underappreciated and in my view I think
there are some intrinsic features of it that have to do with this motivation, that mean that those who provide this work are generally in a weaker bargaining position than everybody else and that seems to be the theoretical core. – Shahra? – [Shahra] Yeah, I guess reading the work of both these ladies. I remember reading a
really interesting paper of Gita Sen which
(mumbles) on accumulation and social reproduction as a student and I think for many of
us, the production system that was always tied to a system of what we call social reproduction,
using that vocabulary, so I was kind of brought
up on that way of thinking about unpaid work. We didn’t call it care work then, but reproductive work as
we called it, and then the issues became much more
popular when in the 1980s many developing countries
were going through now what I guess now in Europe
you’re seeing in terms of austerity policies. You know, they had structural
adjustment policies, which were a response to
a kind of global change in the global financial
system that basically meant that international
financial institutions came in and demanded measures
that were very similar to austerity measures that are being taken in Europe now and some of the interesting feminist literature coming out saying that these cuts that are being
made for social expenditure, the work of taking care
of families and households and doing this work of
providing healthcare, providing services, still has to be done but the outcome of these
cuts is that the cost has shifted from the paid economy into the unpaid economy,
so for me that kind of critique that people like
Diane Elson were making made the care issue really
central to thinking about economic policies and
microeconomic policies, even though we didn’t call
it care at that point. And it was later when
working on social policies in particular that I came across the work of obviously Nancy Fobre and
also many others that were working on welfare states,
who were talking about care and noticing that in
the development context in developing countries, we weren’t really calling it care and we
were missing on this whole literature and also
bringing in the elements from developing countries
because a large part of what we talked about as
unpaid reproductive work included care elements,
i.e. person to person care provision. So then we started the
interesting research project at UNRISD that Juliana
who’s not here tonight was also a part of, to
try and really look at care systems in developing
countries and look at care, both paid and unpaid
in developing countries and make that visible
and bring that experience into the debates on care
and social restructuring and social policy globally
because we’ve had that developing country experience
in a way that’s missing from debates on care,
even though some of that was very much there in the literature on social reproduction and unpaid work, which as Gita explained, included care even though it never perhaps
used that vocabulary. – [Janet] Thank you,
Shahra, I want to stay with you for a moment as one of the chief architects of this UN report. The title of the report,
as you all can see, Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights, signals something very
important and that is that this report has cast economic gender disparities in a
human rights framework. So let me just take a
moment to share a passage from the report. “International human rights treaties “encapsulate a substantive
understanding of “gender equality that can
serve as both a vision “and an agenda for action for those “seeking to advance
women’s rights in today’s “challenging context while
formal equality refers to “laws and policies that
treat women and men equally, “substantive equality is
concerned with results “and outcomes.” That’s an opening quote from the report. Human rights, of course,
Shahra, as you know, takes on different meanings at
different times in different parts of the world. Many Americans, including
contemporary scholars of women and work, find it to
be a perplexing concept, but throughout the report the centrality of human rights and the achievement of substantive equality
are answered at length from start to finish, so my question for you, Shahra, why did the progress report take
human rights as its framework? And how do you relate the report’s focus on economic and social
rights to the more classical rights issues such as
civil and political rights? And then I’ll close this
complicated question with this. Was the decision to adopt
a human rights framework a strategic one? – Okay, let me start with a boring answer to that question. The boring answer is
most of the governments of the world have
voluntarily signed up to the international treaties
so it would make sense to look at these international treaties and see if they’re delivering on what they signed up to. That’s kind of the
boring answer, as I said, which is also part of the truth. But the reality as we
look closely for people who have not, for some
of us and I particularly have not specifically
worked on human rights, as we started looking through a lot of this literature on human rights and how it’s evolving, what became very clear is that there’s actually a lot of vision and a lot of wisdom in these
international treaties, conventions, and I’m
thinking here in particular of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women, CEADAW, which talks about substantive equality, which is the big kind
of idea in this report and I’m saying there’s a
lot of wisdom and vision because I think the idea of thinking about substantive equality goes to the heart of many of the issues
that I think scholars around the world are
debating and struggling with and movements are struggling with. The concept of substantive
equality, what CEADAW says, what really matters is the concrete enjoyment of rights,
that’s what substantive equality means, which
is different from just formal equality or equality before the law or provisions for gender equality put into policies, so what really matters is how that translates into reality and into concrete enjoyment of rights. I think this goes
straight into this debate that’s been going on for
decades about equality of opportunity and equality of outcome and CEADAW is very clear that both matter and that equality of
opportunity is meaningless if you don’t see that equality in terms of people’s enjoyment of rights, so there you have this, I think,
quite useful concept which was developed in
the CEADAW convention. Equally important, it draws
attention to structural constraints that stop
equal laws, even if gender equality isn’t tried in those, if you have structural constraints
and power inequalities and discriminatory social
norms these can become hurdles and barriers and
stop people from actually realizing and enjoying
their lives on a basis of equality. So it was attention to these
barriers and discriminatory social norms rather than
assuming there is a kind of level-playing field
out there, so it draws attention to all these
institutional constraints that I think many feminist
scholars have drawn attention to and that’s
there in CEADAW convention. And it talks about the
need to pay attention to not only direct
discrimination, but also CEADAW talks about indirect discrimination and unintended discrimination. For example, again to talk
about austerity policies, austerity policies that cut
fiscal spending don’t mean to hurt women, but evidence
shows that they often do in practice when you
have those kind of cuts. What it does is that it does
hurt particular social groups, low-income people in general
and women in particular, because of the way they’re
structured and located within the economy,
because of the way in which they have constraints in
terms of accessing market income because of the fact
that they’re very often responsible for provision
of care for their families, cuts in public services
and transfers very often hurt women in particular quite hard and those kind of issues
really point to this issue around indirect discrimination. And also what CEADAW says,
again I’ll talk about it, is the sort of responsibility of the state not only to respect rights,
but also to protect rights and to fulfill rights
and I think that again is quite an amazing statement in terms of the responsibility of
the state to protect harm from being done by third parties. It could be the private
sector, it could be others, and if the markets or the
private sector are not able to fulfill certain
rights, then it’s the duty of the state to step in
and insure that those rights are fulfilled, so
there’s an amazing agenda there in terms of public
action which we thought the report could tap
into and the fact that there was some really
interesting work going on by a range of economists, microeconomists, I’m thinking of people like Diane Elson, James Heinz, Amitava Krishna, who’ve been working on trying at this
interface in particular between hegemonic policies,
including microeconomic policies, and human
rights, we thought it was really important to bring this issue in and make sure human rights don’t stop when we get to a discussion
of economic policies that are often seen as technical and having nothing to do with rights, so that was really the impetus behind it and I think your point about
civil and political rights, I think the focus of the
report is on economic and social rights, but
you know as human rights principles, we always talk
about the indivisibility of rights, the fact that
social and economic rights are meaningless if you don’t
have civil and political rights, and we make that
very clear in the way we look at substantive
equality, which means that, for example, the right
to health, the right to healthcare, this cannot stand on its own if you don’t also have
within the systems that provide healthcare
mechanisms for complaints, mechanisms for redress,
mechanisms to make sure that people can lodge complaints. We know that in many
healthcare systems around the world, poor people in
particular, poor women, women from marginalized
social groups, receive not very equal treatment,
if you like, and within a human rights way of
thinking, providing healthcare is not just a question of
redressing socioeconomic equalities and providing
services in a top-down manner, but it’s equally important
there’s mechanisms for voice, for complaints,
and for redress, so I think the indivisibility
is there strongly. And in terms of our strategic objectives in taking on the human rights framework, I think it was partly
also to respond to the way in which the mantra of
women’s economic empowerment has been taken up by a lot of actors, by corporate interests,
by governments, by donors who all claim to be empowering
women and we thought, okay, it’s great that
you’re claiming that, let’s now look at actually
what human rights says about economic and social rights. Does the fact that the
claim that you’re empowering women, does it mean that
the work that is provided meet certain standards
of safety, for example? Does it provide a decent living wage? So, you know, you set out certain criteria based on these principles
that you can then push the debate forward and move beyond claims of empowering
women and actually look at concrete rights and
say, well, does this actually help women realize
and enjoy these rights or is it just bringing women into a very problematic global value
chains which actually may be undermining their rights at work, at many different levels. – [Janet] Thank you, Shahra. I think we’re going to
have a chance to come back to that. I’m going to push us
along to this human rights framework UN Women has
already argued has pushed them and us towards thinking
of an action agenda, so we’re going to talk
about five of the points that they raised. The first one as you can
see here we summarized on the slide. It may sound obvious,
create more and better jobs for women. A lot of feminists would
argue that eradicating women’s disadvantage
depends first and foremost on equalizing men’s and women’s engagement in paid work. Until women and men as
groups are equal and likely to work for pay,
women will always remain second-class citizens. In other words, gender equality demands degendering in economic terms, both in the supply and demand for labor. My question to you all is, do you agree with that premise? And why or why not? Gita, you want to get us started? – With the premise of degendering? – Is equalizing men and women’s engagement in paid work at the heart of achieving gender equality? – Yes, it is, but I will say that I think it’s a little
bit of a pipe dream myself. And it’s a pipe dream
right now, because I think before we look at the question of whether we get to equality, we’ve got to look at what is happening with
work itself and with jobs and I see in some senses, these questions which seem, for the
longest time we’ve somehow thought of the advanced
economies as holding up a mirror to themselves that the developing countries could look at and follow. I’m afraid we may have
actually turned back and we are in a reverse situation. What I see from where I sit
is not just gender equality, but hugely informal and
more informal work is all that’s emerging, and in
that context if we don’t understand what’s happening
with jobs and what is likely to keep
happening with work itself, asking for greater gender
equality in the kinds of jobs that are being created
isn’t going to get us terribly far and that is why I think of it as a little bit of a pipe dream. I think that we need to
go back to the drawing board a little bit in terms of thinking about what is happening with work itself. – Nancy? – Yeah, I have to say,
I think that’s a really good point and I do think that’s relevant to thinking about what’s
happening in the US with declining labor
force participation rates for both men and women. And to me it speaks to
what the really great contribution of the report
is, which is to move beyond the focus of
the labor market per se to this larger question
of the social organization of care and the critique
of neoliberal thinking that markets and markets
alone and the labor market in particular are the solutions. I also think that you
can’t really talk about the supply of demand
for paid labor without thinking about the supply
of demand for unpaid work and that the role of the
state and the public sector in helping to organize
that and reorganize that is really key to thinking
about continued progress on the paid work front. – Let me move up to the
second priority which is very much connected to the first, focusing more on the
quality of work as opposed to equalizing the quantity. So equalizing men’s and
women’s employment rates won’t result in
substantive gender equality if women continue to be overrepresented in occupations that are far less revered and if gender pay gaps persist and we know that, of course,
occupational segregation is an important factor
but not the only one contributing to gender pay gaps, so the UN report lays
out several strategies for reducing disparities summarized here, revaluing female-dominated
occupations, promoting strategies that move women up occupational ladders,
encouraging women to study STEM, and so forth. Which of these are most
promising and where and which are the hardest to achieve? Shahra, why don’t we start with you? – [Shahra] I’ve thought about this a lot. On the occupational
segregation, actually, the not so good news is when
we looked at occupational segregation over the past two decades, it is not changing. I mean, really it’s not, and in fact in the past decade, if
anything, female-dominated jobs have become more feminized and male-dominated jobs have
become more masculinized, so the news is not good in
terms of doing away with it. And even though we have
some of these wonderful recommendations, because
we think something needs to be done about
it, because as we all know occupational segregation
is one of the factors that lies behind the
gender-based wage gaps. So this is something we need
to seriously think about, but in terms of what can be done about it, the idea, for example,
of getting more women to study science, STEM
fields, I mean, it’s a great idea, but we also
know the problem is once women enter those fields
in terms of occupations there’s what economists
call leaking pipes, so they very often don’t survive very long in some of those occupations
for various reasons having to do with the work environment, to do with the pressures of the work. Also I think it’s interesting
that in some countries that have tried to put in
quotas, to create more of a mixed male, female
within particular sectors, I think of Norway here,
which for I think it was in 1919 if I’m right, they
had a ministerial decree to bring in more men into care work as kindergarten teachers and after 20 years all they managed to do
was I think they ended up having something like 12 percent men in kindergarten work, care work,
in that particular sector. And where they seemed to
show greater success is for example bringing women
into corporate sector where for a very short period they managed to make a 40 percent quota. But the real challenge of
trying to create more of a mixed male-female
workforce in some of the feminized sectors has been difficult. So although I think it’s
really important, I’m not sure if there are any magic
bullets and if there are any easy ways of doing it. So rather than trying to get more, I think we should continue
trying to create that mix, but it’s also really important to revalue the jobs that women are doing. Societies don’t just need
scientists and engineers, they also need nurses and
carers and child-minders and it’s important that we properly value those jobs. – [Janet] Nancy, do you want to comment? – Yeah, I’m a little
bit more optimistic than you are about it. I think I have seen over
the course of my career a lot of normative change and I see this more particularly among
my undergraduate students who have a very different
set of expectations and ideals than my generation has had. So I think there’s a whole
portfolio of policies that, none of them are really easy. We need more research on which ones work in which context, I think it’s really hard to figure that out. I completely agree with you that revaluing care work and improving the quality and building coalitions with consumers who stand to benefit
from higher-quality care provision, I think has got to be a key part of the overall strategy. – [Janet] Let me push on and let’s move to the third action priority,
I know time is tight here. This is shifting gears somewhat. So the third priority that they identify, strengthen women’s income
security throughout the life cycle. The report concludes that
due to women’s unequal employment history and
predominance in low-paying work, as we’ve said, they’re particularly vulnerable to economic insecurity and financial dependence. Social protections systems,
we know, can diminish these disadvantages, both
during working age years and of course in the older years and they’ve identified
several crucial public policies strengthening
unemployment protection, providing child allowances, and so forth, and very important, reforming
contributory pensions to remove gender biases. So the overarching
question I would propose, is it realistic to think
that economic disparities that stem from different levels and types of engagement in paper can be rectified by these kinds of social protections? Or to put it another way,
if social protection systems fully compensate women
when employment gaps no longer matter? That’s the larger question. Nancy, let me direct this to you. I know you’ve thought a lot, influenced my thinking a lot, often
noting that care is not just about labor time, it’s also about the transfer of money,
both within the family and the community and through the state. So what does a gender
egalitarian system of income security look like? In two minutes or less. (laughs) – It’s such a great question. I guess the first thing I would say is we need to be very careful in the design of public
support for care work, not to reinforce traditional gender roles. I know your own work on
that, a video to show that it’s definitely a risk. If you’re provided paid
family leave from work that are too long or that
are directed only to mothers and not to fathers, you can
end up making the problem worse essentially than making it better, but I think there’s a lot of evidence that well-designed public
policies and support for care can reduce gender inequality and there’s also a lot of evidence that class differences, inequality,
racial/ethnic differences, inequalities based on
citizenship also have to be really central to the design
of these public policies, because you can end up in a regime where and I think this has
happened in several instances where public policies can
exploit low-wage immigrant woman to solve the problem on the cheap, so it really requires a
pretty comprehensive approach to thinking about social
inequality in general beyond just the gender differences. – Gita, you want to add to that? – Sure. I think one of the things going back to something Shahra said
right at the beginning is that one of the
strengths of this report is that it actually ties the question of macroeconomic policy and whether or not you have the money in
times of fiscal austerity to be able to pay for
good social protection and what that might mean. One of the arguments that
we’ve been trying to build again in developing
country contexts is we need to think of social protection not simply in the sense of welfare,
but as having three potential kinds of effects. Obviously it supplements
income, depending on what kind of program
one is thinking about. It can in fact be a job creating mechanism so in situations where
you really have a problem with unemployment and underemployment it’s not just putting
money into people’s hands, it’s actually giving them
work and the Indian Right to Work Program, which
guarantees to every household and it’s women particularly
that can take advantage of this, 100 days of work in a year and if there is no work available, they can actually ask for that from the government. It’s a very important
element in this in times when jobs are very difficult
to get, but there’s a third critical element,
which is that it actually can act as a microeconomic
income multiplier and it’s been increasingly argued that we shouldn’t be looking at this as welfare but in very difficult
times for economic growth when economies are not pulling out of the 2008 crisis in any rapid way at all, the income multiplier
effects of social protection should be and could be as important as the job creation and getting money into people’s hands. – [Janet] Okay, thank you. Shahra, do you have a quick word? – Yeah, I just wanted to
add a small point to that. I totally agree that
the devil’s in the days. How do you design these transfers so that they don’t have the
disincentives or they don’t reinforce the unpaid work as women’s work and I totally agree
with Gita’s point about the importance of these,
to see some of these transfers as social
investments if you like and they do have these multiplier effects. Some can be particularly
useful when economies are in a downturn. But at the same time also
one other thing we put in the report based on a study that was on lifetime earnings of women
and men, based on four countries, it was Sweden,
France, Germany, and Turkey, and what that study found was that even though the social protection system and transfers can make
a difference in terms of closing of lifetime
earnings, but the real factor that makes a big difference
is in terms of people’s access to the labor force,
labor participation, and wages. So social protection
systems are useful in terms of closing some of that
lifetime gaps in income between women and men, but
you also need to really need to do something
about the work and about the quality of work, the pay, the earnings as well as people’s
capacity to participate and from that some of
these social investments are necessary in order
to facilitate women’s in particular participation
in the labor force if we’re thinking of
investments and care services, for example. – [Janet] Let me turn our attention now to the fourth action item. This one as ambitious as the first three. Recognize, reduce, and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work. This takes us back to where we started, unequal distributions of
unpaid care and domestic work are central to this
report, not surprisingly. Very quickly, this section
begins with the claim that unpaid work and
domestic work contribute to economic development and human well-being but the burdens of doing
this work are unequally distributed, it goes on. The report calls for
recognizing and redistributing unpaid work and doing that
through several measures, as you can see on the slide,
increasing investments in infrastructure,
strengthening social services, supporting unpaid
caregivers, and so forth. I know that you Gita began by saying that equalizing men’s and women’s
engagement in paid work might be a pipe dream. People often say that about this as well, even more so. So the question is can
these levers really alter divisions on unpaid labor. Some argue that trying to
redistribute unpaid work is a hopeless endeavor
and maybe it’s better to recognize that gender
gaps and unpaid work, especially in family
caregiving, will never go away, and to simply protect
women economically instead, in other words, maybe we should
accept gender differences but render them costless. Shahra, what do you think of that claim? – Let me just start by
saying some of the policy recommendations that are
up there, it’s really about shifting or rather
redistributing unpaid care between households,
families on the one hand and society on the
other, so a lot of those investments in social
services and infrastructure, what it does is that
it’s society as a whole by paying taxes, by
financing these services is taking on some of that burden and relieving families and households. So that’s a great achievement and I think some of that is actually happening. In particular, I think at a time when in many developed countries
we’re seeing a kind of erosion of services,
care services, some of that were available, some of the
transfers are being cut. You know in Latin America
over the past decade there has been quite a lot of
significant changes I think in the provision of care
services, for example. We don’t hear about that a lot, we hear about conditional cash
transfers in Latin America but countries like Chile,
Argentina, and Mexico, using different methods have invested in care services, and I
think that’s something worth emphasizing here. But your questions about
redistributing unpaid care work within families and households, maybe again I’m being very
pessimistic here, Nancy, I think that entails changing social norms and I’m sure one can see a
generational change in that, younger men want to
engage more with children, with their children, less so when it comes to elderly care, it seems, less engagement from men in terms of taking care of their elderly parents. But also I think we’ve
had some policies like the daddy quotas in the Nordic countries that are symbolically
important and that provide some carrots and sticks to ask more men to take on some of that work, but in terms of seeing a big change,
I think these will be very slow changes and
the only thing I think one can say is that for
many developing countries in contexts also where
a lot of men are feeling their masculinity is being
undermined by unemployment, structural unemployment in
some countries, and that’s probably true in developed
countries too, in the US as well, those are not
probably the best conditions for reproductive bargains
and for some sharing of unpaid care work
perhaps, because it may be more difficult for men
who feel their masculinity is under question to take on more of this very feminized work, but maybe not. But we don’t seem to be
seeing a huge shift happening, but also we’re very aware
that in time use surveys and other surveys, a lot
of men who do care work don’t seem to be reporting it so maybe that’s also an issue. (laughs) I’m sure others can say more. – Actually I would just
say more, there’s been some research in the US
that did show that during the economic crisis it
was often dubbed the man session and it was
often men who were first hit by the wave of unemployment,
that there was some classic role reversal with
some men who lost their jobs and took over the primary caregiver role while their partners
remained in paid work. There’s some really
substantial evidence for that in the US anyway. Nancy, Gita? – I agree that the change is slow and I think it’s a frustrating process, but I think there is some
good, really major trends that are pushing in that
direction and one of those is demographic change,
in fertility decline. Another is just technological change in the organization of
housework and provision of care services. And I also think that household bargaining, kind
of cultural bargaining over whose responsibility care is is kind of moving forward. I guess I also think that
there’s this really important analogy between awareness
of the natural environment and the degradation and
destabilization of the natural environment and
the concerns about the care environment and the
degradation and destabilization of our families and communities. And so the parallel works. I think issues like global
climate change is very frustrating, that there’s not a stronger, more unified response. On the other hand, I
think there’s a growing awareness of the need to really mobilize
collectively around the need to address that problem and I think the same thing is true of people’s concerns
about the future of family and community care
responsibilities so I think, in a way, as they become
more fraught and more difficult, awareness of them is increased and I think that it’s
going to be a big theme in the years to come. – Yes, but no, not last word (chuckles). Hopefully not. But, again, I think it depends very much on two things, whether we’re going to see
the kind of normative change that both Shahra and Nancy spoke about. One, men usually get into care work when technology comes in. Technology of one kind
or another seems to lift and raise the normative value of anything that’s done. So if you’re doing the
same thing with a broom versus doing it with a vacuum cleaner (audience laughs) it makes a big difference. In fact, I’m reminded of a friend in Fiji who we were just talking
about whether her husband, what does he do, does he have part at home and she said, he’s actually pretty good. He will sweep the house,
but before he does it he makes sure he draws all the curtains so nobody from the outside
can see him doing it, so I think it depends
very much on technology and technology and the
possibility of either private or public investment in
technology depends on the underlying economic environment. And the other thing is
whether it’s considered, to use Ruth Pearson’s
language, whether it’s cuddly care, dirty care,
hi-tech care, it depends very much which of those it is. What kind of care are we talking about? Are we talking about, I
mean, demographics may change and whether or not we
have children, but we have old people in the home, in
lots and lots of countries and nowhere for them to go except remain at home, so who takes care with increasing longevity
and what kind of care that is and I think it’s going to be very hard to see the
norms around that kind of actual, hardcore caring
work changing easily because you can’t technologize it, much, anyway. – [Janet] Thank you. So men like gadgets, is
that what you’re saying? (audience laughs) Sorry, kind of my thesis. Okay, the fifth priority,
the still’s very large. Can you tell me, Gita,
I’m going to direct this mostly to you because this has really been your life’s work. The board notes that public services are essential for the
realization of women’s rights and the achievement of
substantive equality in many areas. The central concern here
is withheld services. Without adequate health
services, the report notes, women and girls struggle to realize their sexual and reproductive rights. So you’ve spent your
life, of course, thinking about the interplay between
gender equity and health and women’s human rights. In what ways are adequate health services crucial to the pursuit of gender equality in both more or less developed economies? Can you talk about that a little bit? – This is what’s called giving me a really softball to play with
with this kind of audience and given the current
situation in this country in terms of whether or not you defund Planned Parenthood. I would imagine that,
there’s so many commonalities across high-income and
lower-income countries and in relation to the
question of women’s bodies, women’s health, and human rights. In some senses, I suppose
we are now at the stage where we’re fighting
bitterly about having it recognized as human rights, having health services recognized
as part of human rights. And ironically, there are lots of ironies in this. I remember one argument last year at some very heated debatein the United Nations around migrants, this was pre-the current European wave. It was actually related
to the European Union and the European Union
was caught in a clapstick on the question of
whether or not they would agree that providing
health services to migrants was something they would agree to and so they then came up with this kind of distinction, which of
course everybody thought was ridiculous between,
oh yes, we recognize the human rights of migrants, but we don’t recognize their right to health services. So, of course, as I told you, most of us would think that was absurd, but that was the best that they could do. So it’s in the actual
provision of things like health services that the
rubber starts hitting the road when it comes to gender equality, human rights, and women’s bodies because that’s when one
actually sees whether or not there’s going to
be funding for programs, what is going to be the
compass for the programs, and whether they’re
going to advance women’s autonomy and agency in
accessing health services or whether they’re going to cut them back and the biggest challenges, as we know, that we face in this context right now, certainly in this country,
of course, it’s the neverending battle around abortion. But elsewhere it’s also
the big challenge of young people’s rights,
particularly young women’s rights, to be able to access health services without getting five
people having to sign off on whether or not they
can access those services and it’s also, of course,
around sexual rights, the rights of people who
are not in heterosexual relationships to be able
to access health services openly and freely, and I
think that in this context the realization of the
human right to help, which when stated at one level sounds like mother cooked an apple
pie has actually become hugely fraught in a lot of countries and a lot of contexts
and a lot of situations because of these things and, of course, you’re very aware of
it, continuously, in the relatively narrow frame of
abortion in this country but scratch that surface and there’s a lot of other things behind it as well. – Thank you. Let me start to bring
us to a close by turning your attention to regional
and national specificities. Even the most cursory look
at women and work care across countries reveals
that progress toward gender equality varies
enormously across countries and that there’s some
notable patterns at the regional level. We see already in the
report, the enormous array of statistics showing us
cross-national variation, many of these outcomes
that we’re talking about. I want each of you to
reflect on parts of the world that you know best and
I’m asking if you would characterize recent
things, central challenges, paradoxes, and so forth. Our expertise on this stage does not cover the whole world. But we do have some very
deep knowledge about certain regions here. Shahra, would you talk a little bit about the MENA region, the Middle
East and North Africa, where women’s labor force
participation is very low by global standards, around 20 percent. It’s risen slightly in the last 30 years. What are the greatest economic challenges facing women in the MENA region and which countries stand out as those where women’s economic and social rights are more fully realized and why? – All of the data,
you’re absolutely right, even though we may have some reservations about the data, especially when you do cross-regional comparisons, I’m sure other comments can talk about that. But there is a truth in
the data that we have the Middle East and
North Africa region, the female labor force is very low and it has increased
but from a very low base and I think obviously the
region is very diverse. One cannot generalize,
but in three minutes I may have to do some generalization here. There are certain factors
that seem to converge together to create the disincentives
and constraints in terms of women’s access to paid work. For some of the countries,
at least historically in the ’80s and ’90s,
being oil-based economies, rentier states, created
what some economists talk about as the Dutch
disease, so disincentives and structural problems
in terms of having a manufacturing base, which
would have attracted more women into the labor force, so
the fact that these were oil-based economies mediated against that. But also the fact that there
was this social contract, if you like, between the
state and men, actually, around a very strong
family wage, which was a relatively high wage, but
a family wage, which again conspired against women’s
labor force participation as well as institutional
particularities like, for example, the fact
that maternity leave in most of the countries in the
region except, I believe, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco,
and Algeria, is financed entirely by employers,
which again creates huge disincentives in terms of women’s
labor force participation. Plus the fact that you
have these family laws that are very restrictive
in terms of women’s access to the labor market. In terms of family laws in many countries, women need permission in order to access the labor force, we know,
of course, that women get around discriminatory
family laws and other kinds of laws, but the combination
of these factors has been something that has
really fed into the kind of low levels of labor
participation that we see in the region. Now that particular social
contract between the state and men has fallen apart in the context of globalization, economic
globalization, and some people would say this is the prelude to the kind of so-called Arab Spring
and the complex that emerged in the region,
but also I think in that context economic necessity
has pushed many women into the labor force in
terms of informal work which is growing in many countries, but also I think it’s
very important to bring into this rather bleak
picture the fact that in terms of the state’s
capacity to offer infrastructure and services, the militarization
in many of the countries, the enormous amount of public
resources that are spent on military expenses, I
have some figures for like Saudi Arabia, it’s something
like 25% of public expenditure goes into military spending as compared to 6% on health expenditures, in Bahrain 16% on military spending
compared to 8.7% on health, so these are kind of,
again adding force to the state not being able
to provide some of the infrastructure that
would be helpful in terms of enabling women to access labor market and also both the remaining
constraints through the family laws and the
political-economic restraints that may have somewhat
become less forceful in the context of the
countries becoming less dependent, some of
them, on the oil income. But overall I think
this does not bode well, but there are, I think,
looking at the work of someone like Valentine Moghadam who has worked on these countries from a gender perspective. I mean, the more positive
picture seems to be emerging from countries
like Morocco and even better Tunisia, which have
reformed the family laws in both countries, they have had reforms of family laws and also generally women’s access to the labor
market has been greater and the state has been
able to do more in terms of provisioning of
services, of not so much care services, but at
least taking more of a role in financing of material
leave, for example, which I think make them
relatively interesting countries to look at
from that perspective. And also, not to forget,
the activism of women’s movements in those countries,
in terms of enabling some of these changes to happen, which has been a really important force. – And Gita, let me ask
you to reflect on India. Women’s paid work in
India has been stagnant in recent years, according to the report and other findings. Why do you think that
India’s globalizing economy is not providing more jobs
for women the way other countries are, say in some
of the Asian countries and in Latin America as well? Or are women’s organizations
in India concerned about the stagnation
in women’s employment? What do you see going on there? – Hugely concerned. And hugely concerned for multiple reasons. We actually have been
seeing an upward trend in women’s work participation rates for quite a while. But in the period post-2008,
particularly, it just seems to have gone the other direction. Now male work participation
rates have also declined somewhat during this period,
but when one looks at it, the analysis says that
what’s happening is that boys are going into education. That’s not what’s happening with girls. You cannot explain the
fall as girls going more into school and education. I actually have begun
calling this the canary in the miner’s cage because I think that,
see, India’s been growing and I put the numbers
together, but let’s just take the period from about 2000 on. Our economic reforms began
about 10 years before that and there was a period of
sort of up-down with the economic growth rates. But if you take about
the period from 2000 on, we’ve been growing at a pretty steady clip of about between six to eight
and sometimes even touching 9% a year. Not Chinese rates, but
rates that any economy would be thrilled to have. However, the employment
elasticity of GDP growth, which for those of you
who are not economists, 1% of GDP growth, how much
does it translate into in terms of increases
in employment, so the employment elasticity of GDP was already only 0.3% before 2000. And after 2008, it’s fallen further to 0.15. Now this means that we pretty much are not creating jobs with all the growth that’s taking place and that’s why I’m
saying that the question of what is happening with jobs and work and technology in a context of the kind of globalization changes that we’re seeing taking place and where we are seeing women ending up in India is,
in fact, more and more marginal kinds of work. They’ve been pushed out
of even the low-end work that they were in before and that’s why I’m calling it the canary in the miner’s cage. We’re not paying attention to this, India’s going to be in
serious, it’s already in pretty serious trouble when
it comes to jobs and work. It’s going to be in much
worse trouble as we go on. – Nancy, can you say something
about the United States, the US, as you know and I
know and many of us know is famously belabored
among high-income countries with regard to policies that
help parents in particular to divide paid work and family. Possibly less well-known is that women’s employment outcomes relative
to other rich countries are not especially good and they’re slipping
in cross-national terms over time. What the heck is going
on in the United States? Why is the US such an outlier? – Well, I think there’s a
lot of empirical evidence that work-family policies
have created a wall that makes it very difficult
for women’s labor force participation rates to increase. From 1970 to the
mid-’90s, very rapid rates and very high relative to other countries and since then, really
leveled off and declined. So I do think there is a
supply side constraint. I also think it’s true, once
you reach a certain level, it’s hard, it becomes particularly hard to provide substitutes for the work that women were providing in the home. But I also very much agree with what Gita was saying, there’s the
global labor demand issue, that employment growth is
lagging, that there’s been a change in the kind
of political economy of the labor market, and that’s
put wage earners everywhere in a very vulnerable
position and that’s something we really need to address as
part of the larger problem. One thing I would add,
though, is that I never like using GDP or GDP growth
rates as kind of an indicator of success because they are very much mismeasured indicators of the total value of the goods and services produced, so one of the reasons we
have rapid GDP growth in the US from 1970 to
the mid-’90s was that more women were entering the labor force, so that’s what was driving the GDP growth. Their work was not being
counted, but it was unpaid and then they reallocated
their time to paid work and it was made paid. So changing our whole accounting system to better understand
the relationship between employment and the total value of goods and services produced,
rather than just goods and services bought and sold, has got to be a big part of the whole process. – No, of course, I’m
going to agree with you on that, but that’s not
what’s on that (mumbles). I mean, it’s. – Yeah, understood. – But that’s a crucial
point, just to underscore. I was going to say, Nancy,
you wrote the book on this, you literally wrote the book on this. As women move into paid
work, we do often forget our accounting frameworks, that they’re withdrawing
unpaid labor from the home and that has an effect on well-being. We tend not to count it
as if it’s indivisible, this counting in at zero. On that note, I’m going to turn it over to the audience for a few questions. We have about almost ten minutes, a little less than I hoped for. Questions, microphones
in the aisles so we can probably take two or three questions? When you get to the
microphone please tell us who you are. And if you give a speech, keep it down to 10 seconds. (audience laughs) Over here? – [Alan] Hi, I’m Alan Salzman. My question is, it seems to me that religion, particularly
religious orthodoxy, has had a substantive
influence on gender inequality historically and even today. I’d be curious (mumbles). – Did everyone hear that? What’s the role of religious
orthodoxy as a barrier to gender equality? I think that’s a question. Do you agree that, yes. – Yes. – The answers are yes. (audience laughs) – I would say, in my view, what patriarchal religious traditions do is guarantee a very
large and generous supply of care by defining women’s responsibility in very asymmetric terms that limits their alternatives elsewhere and I think that the world that we live in the US now, well, I should say, okay, we all live in very different worlds, that’s very clear, even in the US, but I think we’re
experiencing a transition to a very different
society in which there’s very little emphasis on
obligations or responsibilities for care and I think it’s
created a moral and political vacuum in which orthodox
religion and fundamentalist religion have been in
some ways strengthened or reinforced, that
sometimes we’re presented with two alternatives,
which is that religious orthodoxy should dictate that
women provide all the care or we can live in a society where people can choose to care or not depending on what their utility functions are, something like that. (audience laughs) So I do think that globally
we’re undergoing a vague and complicated cultural trauma that we need to process better and talking about it can help. – Question over here? – [Man In Audience] Yeah. – Come closer to the mic. – [Man In Audience] I’m glad you caught the religious issue
because men are religious and act out of religious principles. All the time I’m thinking something is not completely right here. And it’s not from (mumbles). You get women to go to work for example, they come back home and they still have to do the domestic work and that’s not good for their well-being. They just end up having to do… – What’s your question? – So my question is, how do you motivate that kind of this emotional dynamic that happens when you have a negotiation of not only work at home, but negotiation of resources also because if the woman is not working, the men brings in the
money, maybe he’s making the major decision once they get married, when maybe there might
be a sharing of resources and I’m just thinking
of a lot of situations that happen that maybe
sometimes will be just more of (mumbles). So I’m asking you to address
those dysfunctionalities. – Does anybody want to address that or shall we take a couple of questions? Thank you, let’s take another
question, let’s see if we can blend them together. Go ahead. – [Jeannie] Hi, my name’s Jeannie, I work at John Jay. So it seems to me, it’s hard
for me to not be cynical when I read reports like this and it seems to me that a
lot of these inequalities stem from the fragility
of masculinity (chuckles). And so, sorry, not sorry. (audience laughs) So for those of us in
the audience who are, may have kids someday, how
do we as future parents socialize our kids and
particularly our sons to fight against what they’re being taught in the mainstream and
to fight against these wage gaps and other inequalities? – Actually, I wasn’t prepared to give parenting advice. Those of you who know
me know that’s probably not a good idea. But actually what I would
say as someone who has spent 30 years myself working on questions about public policy, I think most of us we’re not policy determinists. This report focuses on
structural and institutional policy shifts, but we all understand that processes of change are intertwined, that people do gender,
as they say, that norms about gender will have
to shift and institutions will have to shift and employer behavior will have to shift as
demographies and labor markets change. I think most of us would agree that these processes also support one another. Messages from the state are picked up by parents and children and employers are affected by policies and
those kinds of messages, et cetera, so this is
a big part of the story in Nordic countries,
which has probably been the leader in the world
in terms of achieving substantive equality. The state has taken a
very strong position, in a sense, in addressing gender equality, but most of it, as the
graduate research shows, is that it’s also picked
up in family relations, in conservations around the table, and expectations at home, so that’s about all the parenting advice I have. (audience laughs) – Yeah, I don’t particularly want to give parenting advice, although
I hope my sons are more conscious of gender equality issues and willing to share care work, but I think the point about the fragility of masculinity is something well-taken, but there’s also, those normative changes and people’s expectations in terms of what are stereotypes of men’s
roles and women’s roles, all those cultural issues
do make a difference, but also what I think
we’re talking about here are the sort of structural constraints, that in fact when you have
a very long working hour culture, it makes it very
difficult for not only men working in the finance
sector, but also for men and women who are maybe working and trying to earn a living
income by having to put in incredibly long hours to
do any kind of parenting and care work and then
within a very unequal society what happens, something
we haven’t talked about yet, is the way in which
much of that care work is delegated down to
people, whether it’s migrant workers, women who are
coming from other countries, sometimes with highly educated women who take home some of
this dirty, to use the word that Ruth Pearson is
using, the sort of dirty care work and the bits
of care work that we don’t like to do, so we
do the person to person care, the storytelling,
a lot of the other work that involves more drudgery and again to engage with
others who happen to be around and who do this work for low wage because of that and other choices and because of the
constraints that they face, so I think that’s important to bring into this conversation also the way in which the global inequalities also contribute to a lack of divisions of
labor within households that both men and women live in and they provide an easy out if you have the possibility
of hiring a nanny for a relatively low income and low wage then that resolves that
issue of not having to think about it every weekend in terms of who does this
work and who does that work. – We’ll take one last question. Over here. – My name is Joan Hoffman,
I’m also from John Jay, but my field is sustainability and you did have a brief
mention of the environment but it does seem to me that the crisis we’re having
in environmental care has particular repercussions
for women in their ability to provide care access to
modern and things like that. I wasn’t sure if that was
addressed in the report. – Gita, I see you thought
about this, you wanna comment, or Shahra? – Yeah, in the report
when we talk about care we don’t necessarily, we
have actually in the context of many low-income households
and in terms of low-income countries that kind of
work of carrying water which gets more arduous in
parts of the world, you know, even the little access
to water that there was, becomes even less accessible
and people have to go longer distances, we even
have some data on that and the way in which that work is divided and very often when it is
arduous and it involves carrying water as Gita was
saying there’s very little technology, but it is
very often women and girls who do it and we have some data on that, the way in which that
work has been divided and there has been quite
a lot of literature but not reflected in this reports in terms of also the environmental care as we see degradation of environment. Actually that does very
often add to the kind of unpaid work that is carried
out by local households in particular and women
living in those households, more specifically, so we do refer to it but it’s not a big
dimension of the report, but maybe my colleagues will. – Actually our work in care
for the evening is done. You are three minutes
over, so Shahra, thank you and UN Women, and thank
you Gita and Nancy.

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