Building a Gender Equal Recovery, 28 April 2021


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 28 April 2021

Dear Distinguished Guests, Friends,

I am delighted to open the OECD Forum Virtual Event: Building a Gender Equal Recovery, with my dear friend Ambassador Julissa Reysono.

Over the past year, COVID-19 has exposed the failures, fractures and fissures that have long existed in our societies and economies. It has laid bare the inherent gender inequalities of nearly every system in every part of the world, including: social services, health care, employment, pay, leadership, share of unpaid work and access to finance.

Women have suffered disproportionately from the crisis. We have seen this in the labour market, where women are leaving in alarming numbers. By February 2021, across the OECD, 2% of employed women – compared to 0.6% of employed men – dropped out of the paid labour force. Furthermore, according to a recent survey carried out by McKinsey, more than one in four women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce — including those in leadership positions.

Even worse, the pandemic is already triggering a secondary health and mental health crisis. For example, CARE International found that the number of women who reported mental health impacts from COVID-19 was threefold that of men.

There is also a worrying expansion of a parallel epidemic of gender-based violence, from violence at home and online, to increased sexual exploitation and abuse. We need to look deeper into what the hard numbers alone cannot tell us.

A more systemic approach to gender equality and the recovery is needed – which we will discuss this afternoon with the New Approaches to Economic Challenges.

Next month, under the leadership of the United States, the OECD will hold its Ministerial Council Meeting around the theme, “Shared Values: Building a Green and Inclusive Future” – to discuss the recovery beyond COVID-19.

Let me outline some key features regarding gender equality in this discussion.

First, it remains paramount to apply a gender lens to all COVID-19 response and recovery efforts by reinforcing the narrative that gender equality, growth and development are inseparable. This is where the strength of the OECD lies.

Second, we must address both new and pre-existing structural challenges to reinvigorate economic growth. This means placing women at the core of the digital transformation to unleash the potential of millions to the economy of the future, and supporting them through job transitions. This would also facilitate the relocation of productive resources and boost productivity.

Third, we need to address complex issues such as gender-based violence (GBV) and intersectional challenges. The OECD is supporting governments through various policy tools and instruments, including a policy framework on “Strengthening governance and survivor/victim-centric approaches to eliminating GBV”. We have also been assessing deep-rooted social norms that determine the power dynamics between men and women, so as to propose policy solutions to tackle the root cause of gender inequalities.

Over the years, the OECD has evolved to nurture its ability and to wire together different silos to tackle problems that are systemic in nature.

Throughout this important journey, the United States has always inspired the work of the Organisation and indeed guided its direction in key moments. The establishment of the Gender Policy Council in the White House is no exception. Such a mechanism integrates gender considerations into broader policy discussions from the top. We are encouraged to see this important development in our Member governments and we will look at a similar institutional arrangement to reinforce gender mainstreaming in our Organisation.

Dear Friends,

The OECD will continue monitoring progress made by countries in closing the gender gaps through the OECD Gender Recommendations on education, employment and entrepreneurship as well as in public life.

Together, we can design an inclusive future for our children and the generations to come. The OECD is pleased to support you in this important endeavour.

Thank you.


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