The G20 and gender equality: how the G20 can advance women's rights in employment, social protection and fiscal policies

14 Jul 2014

Women can expect to wait another 75 years before they receive the same amount of pay as their male counterparts, according to this report.


In its ‘World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development’, the World Bank asserted that gender equality was a core development objective in its own right and also ‘smart economics’. The same year, in their Los Cabos Declaration, G20 leaders committed to tackling the barriers to women’s full economic and social participation and to expanding opportunities for women in their countries. Oxfam supports this commitment, and calls on the G20 to go further and assess the entirety of their agenda and actions in the light of development and rights-based commitments to women’s rights and gender equality.

Across G20 countries and beyond, women get paid less, do most of the unpaid labour, are over-represented in part-time work, and are discriminated against in the household, in markets, and in institutions. Their situation is worse when their gender identity intersects with other forms of social and economic power inequalities and marginalization based on, for example, race, class, or income. The G20 countries’ commitment to gender equality and inclusive growth can only be realised if they take action to rectify the shortcomings of an economic system that excludes or devalues what matters most: the realization of the rights and dignity of all human beings and protection of the natural environment.

The effects of such a deeply gender-discriminatory system include women’s poverty and, in many cases, their inability to live up to their full potential. Women’s crucial contributions to economies and to society are under-recognized and limited because of gender discrimination that has the powerful effect of threatening their health and well-being, as well as those of their families. Women consistently make up the majority of the world’s poorest citizens and of groups marginalized from economic decision making, and their unpaid contributions are largely invisible in a system that does not value the totality of their work.

The relationships between growth, economic inequality, and gender equality are complex. It is important to note that growth does not automatically lead to gender equality; however, inclusive growth cannot be achieved with gender-blind policies.

  • Only one high-income country in the G20 – South Korea – has achieved greater income equality alongside economic growth since 1990. However, this growth is built on gender inequality in wages and discriminatory practices: South Korea ranks worst among OECD countries on the gender wage gap.
  • It will take 75 years for the principle of equal pay for equal work to be realized at the current rate of decline in wage inequality between men and women.
  • The monetary value of unpaid care work is estimated at anything from 10 percent to over 50 percent of GDP.4 An additional 20–60 percent of GDP would be added if the hidden contribution of unpaid work was recognized and valued.
  • If women’s paid employment rates were the same as men’s, the USA’s GDP would increase by 9 percent, the Eurozone’s by 13 percent, and Japan’s by 16 percent. In 15 major developing economies, per capita income would rise by 14 percent by 2020 and 20 percent by 2030.

Oxfam is concerned with gender equality and women’s rights as ends in themselves; and because their absence drives poverty, while their fulfilment has been shown to drive development. This paper argues that the G20’s growth and development agenda can only be considered inclusive – and can only make a positive difference to real people – when women and men have equal opportunities to benefit, human rights are fulfilled, and sustainable development is pursued. These are not only ‘women’s issues’ – they are systemic issues that determine the well-being of the whole planet.


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