Dear President von der Leyen, President Yacob, friends and colleagues,
It is my pleasure to address the Women’s Forum Global Meeting.
This year has been predominantly overshadowed by the COVID-19 crisis. But 2020 also marks the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action to advance gender equality. And yet the pandemic is threatening the gains made over decades in terms of gender equality. This is something we simply cannot afford.
Women have been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. They compromise 70% of the global healthcare workforce and have been working hard to save our lives, taking a greater risk of infection, despite 28% less pay and 25% lower presence in decision-making roles than men in the sector.
More women than men are dropping out of the labour market. This is partly because they represent a large share of workers and business owners within sectors that rely on physical customer interaction, such as accommodation services and tourism.
Women are also on the front lines at home, taking on the burden of increased care responsibilities. Currently 606 million women cannot join the labour market because of their unpaid care responsibilities, which represent around USD 11 trillion globally.
This is certainly not how we want our future to be. To achieve a truly inclusive recovery we need to mainstream gender in all policy responses. We need stronger leadership and smarter policies that apply a gender perspective on the design and implementation of budgets, regulations and procurement contracts.
For instance, income support must help women keep their jobs during the crisis, not encourage them to abandon the workforce. We must promote paid parental leave policies, and explicitly encourage fathers to take them. Today, half of the world’s countries do not have laws mandating paid paternity leave.
We must also promote the reallocation of labour through a twin green and gender-equal recovery. Women should be empowered and adequately trained to get access to better jobs in growing sectors, particularly in the green economy.
But these changes do not happen naturally. That is why we need women in leadership positions. And let’s not forget that it is also good for business! Enhancing diversity in leadership can help improve work-life balance, and bring additional profits and productivity to companies. In the public sector, we have already witnessed that countries led by female leaders tend to cope better with the crisis.
The urgency of the COVID crisis is not an excuse to delay action on gender inclusion. On the contrary, we must act fast and decisively to have women on board of the recovery efforts.
The OECD supports the global efforts in advancing this agenda through the G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance, our work on the G20 Brisbane Target, the G20’s EMPOWER Alliance and the B4IG coalition.
Only together can we build back better.
Count on the OECD to continue supporting these efforts.