UN General Assembly
Remarks by Secretary-General Angel Gurría
28 September 2020 - OECD
Dear Ministers; Dear Partners of the Generation Equality Forum; Dear Friends,
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing human suffering, affecting women and girls harder. Twenty-five years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted and with ten years left to achieve the SDGs, the COVID-19 pandemic presents a large threat to progress achieved on gender equality over the last half century. Unless we take decisive actions now, women will come out of the crisis with even wider inequalities.
The crisis has exposed just how dependent we are on women taking on unpaid care work at home. It has been exacerbated by the lockdown, telework and school closure.
Not only does unpaid care work stigmatise the role of women, it remains a driver of disadvantages for women in the labour market. Currently, 606 million women cannot join the labour market because of their unpaid care responsibilities.
This has a detrimental effect on our economy as unpaid care work globally is estimated at around USD 11 trillion, or 9% of global GDP. This is simply unsustainable for women and for our economy!
To close the gender gap in care, we need strong policies that will support women at home and at work.
Offering affordable and quality childcare options for working parents, especially for informal or essential workers, is critical in time of crisis. Expanding flexible working options can also help parents juggle work and care needs.
We also need to promote paid parental leave and explicitly encourage fathers to take it, by reserving a portion of paid parental leave for fathers. Today, unfortunately half of the world’s countries do not have laws mandating paid paternity leave. A very recent good example is France, where paternity leave was doubled.
Furthermore, the crisis has shown there is much room for improvement in the working conditions of the professional care workforce – and 65% of them are women! We also need to invest in human resources by increasing entry wages and offering opportunities for training and career progression. After all, they are the backbone of our society, and we have not valued them enough. The crisis is giving us an opportunity to redress such inequalities.
In the longer term, we need to change the deeply entrenched gender stereotypes that define men as the breadwinners and women as the caretakers. Mindset change is also critical to ending violence against women sparing more than one out of three women that suffer globally.
There are many existing tools that could help address these structural challenges.
One way the OECD could contribute to this Action Coalition is to monitor the implementation of ambitious gender equality standards – using the OECD’s Recommendations in the next five years.
But the task at hand is challenging and we need all stakeholders to join forces. Indeed, that’s the spirit of the Generation Equality Forum and the OECD is proud to partner with you in this ambitious and consequential mission. Thank you.