Today, hundreds of millions of women will collect firewood and water for their families, cook and clean, take care of the elderly, the young and the sick; all the while scratching a living from the poorest paid and most precarious jobs. Women’s labour – in and outside the home – is vital to sustainable development, and for the wellbeing of society. Without the subsidy it provides, the world economy would not function. Yet it is undervalued and for the most part invisible.
To reveal the scale of the crisis, ActionAid has calculated the economic value of addressing gender inequality in work in developing countries. Our findings show that women in developing countries could be US$9 trillion better off if their pay and access to paid work were equal to that of men. This huge price tag illustrates the magnitude of the injustice and represents a vast mine of untapped potential for poor women to improve their own lives, and those of their families. And these costs are not only to women’s finances; women’s economic inequality limits their life choices too – such as their sexual and reproductive health and rights – leaving them vulnerable to violence and other forms of discrimination and exploitation.