Remarks by Angel Gurría,
10 January 2017
Mexico City, Mexico
(as prepared for delivery)
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here to present the OECD review Building an Inclusive Mexico: Policies and Good Governance for Gender Equality. We have been working on this review with INMUJERES over the past 12 months. I should like to thank the President of INMUJERES, Lorena Cruz, and her team for a very fruitful working partnership.
Women’s contribution to Mexico’s economic and social development is hugely important. It is directly linked to the country’s competitiveness and inclusive productivity. We must both acknowledge and strengthen it. Few policies are more effective at improving Mexico’s economic performance and ending poverty and inequality than the economic empowerment of women as part of the workforce in a gender-equal environment.
In recent years, the Mexican Government has taken significant steps and made noteworthy progress. The National Programme for Equal Opportunities and Non-Discrimination against Women (Proigualdad) was introduced as a key part of the National Development Plan 2013-2018. Last August, President Peña Nieto headed the first sitting of the National Gender Equality System whose aim is to continue to embed gender-equality objectives into the formulation, implementation and oversight of public policies.
The entry into force of gender quotas at elections was another example of international best practice. In just 10 years, the proportion of seats held by women in the Chamber of Deputies rose from 22.6% in 2005 to 42% in 2016. Mexico is now one of the highest-ranking countries in terms of female representation in a Lower House.
Mexico has also improved the position of girls and women in education. Pre-school enrolment of boys and girls between the ages of four and five is almost universal. This means that boys and girls embark upon their academic lives on an equal footing and that mothers can join the labour market. Programmes offering grants have helped to prevent many teenage girls from dropping out of school, and at tertiary level the proportions of men and women are very similar.
The National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy presented by President Peña Nieto in January 2015 is moving in the right direction, and the National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence against Women(CONAVIM) and INMUJERES have promoted initiatives to create awareness of, prevent, and eradicate violence against women, as exemplified by the Gender Violence Against Women Alert (AVGM) and the Strategies to Spread a Culture of Non-Violence and Promote Women’s Human Rights.
Nonetheless, Mexico continues to face major gender-equality challenges. The country’s performance in this area lags behind that of the other OECD members, and even that of many Latin American countries. Only 47% of women of working age are part of the workforce, way below the OECD average of 67%. Over half of Mexican women of working age are in informal employment with little or no social protection. This has a severe impact on the productivity of the whole economy, increases financial insecurity and adds to poverty and inequality.
Young Mexican women face particularly serious challenges. The teenage pregnancy rate in Mexico is the highest in the OECD, and young Mexican women are four times more likely than young men not to be in employment, education or training, i.e. to be NEETs. Although attitudes are changing among the new generations of Mexicans, various stereotypes, social norms, and the content of television broadcasts and of other mass media still restrict women’s opportunities for development. Mexican women have one of the greatest unpaid workloads in the OECD, in terms of childcare and housework for example, and also face higher levels of violence, which restrict their freedom and safety. Some 67% of Mexican women have been victims of gender-based violence.
Quite apart from being morally reprehensible, these inequalities also have a high economic cost. OECD studies show that halving the gender gap in labour market participation by 2040 could raise per capita GDP by 0.2 percentage points a year over baseline projections. This would equate to a per capita increase of USD 1 100 by 2040, one of the highest projected rises in the OECD.
Mexico will be able to achieve its development objectives only if women participate fully in the economy, society and politics. That is why it is vital to continue to embed gender- equality objectives into legislation, plans and programmes across all levels of government. Developing an effective system of governance that clearly sets out responsibilities, resources and powers in each area at each level will be critical. The report includes a detailed analysis of the current system and identifies its strengths as well as areas where further improvement is required.
It is also vital to continue to promote work in the educational sphere. In addition to reducing school drop-out rates at upper secondary level for men and women alike, and addressing the serious problem of teenage pregnancies, education should be a tool that inspires greater self-confidence among young Mexican women, raises awareness and combats gender stereotypes so that women feel free to go into careers in engineering, science or mathematics: a greater female presence in these areas could have a positive effect on economic performance.
In terms of employment, it is essential to take measures to improve the work-life balance in both the public and private sectors, and provide access to childcare facilities for children under the age of four. It is also vital to extend maternity leave to at least 14 weeks and increase paternity leave from the current 5 days to at least 8 weeks. These measures should be supported by incentives for fathers to take the leave. Reducing informality is another major challenge: although it affects men (49.7% are in informal employment), it affects women more (57.2% are in informal employment).
Gender-based violence is another serious and urgent challenge. It is vital to raise awareness of its wide range of guises – in the home, on television, in the public arena and in politics. In addition to efforts to educate, it is critical to ensure that women have access to justice, that the forces of law and order have the necessary training to deal with gender-based offences and that the law is very firm in punishing sexual assault and gender-based violence.
These are only a few of the recommendations set out in the review. I would ask you to read it with care. Remember that, beyond this report, the OECD has developed other initiatives to support member countries and G20 countries in promoting gender balance. We are monitoring our member countries’ commitments and we hope that Mexico will showcase some progress. Gabriela Ramos will refer to them in more detail.
To conclude this message I would like to stress that policies to promote gender equality favour both parents. They also foster well-being and more harmonious societies. I am convinced that it is necessary to promote these policies to combat exclusion and mistreatment of women (in the first place), but also to build societies with high standards of respect and ethics. Let’s think of this matter as an element that defines the kind of society we want to have.
As the Canadian Prime Minister would say, societies are defined by the way they treat their women. Let’s keep improving on this front, to harvest more benefits for all. Count on the OECD! Thank you!