OECD Secretary-General

OECD / France High-Level Conference: Empowering Women as Drivers of Recovery and Growth, 16 December 2020


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, France, 16 December 2020

Dear Ministers, dear speakers,

It is an honour to be hosting this High-Level Conference on Empowering Women as Drivers of Recovery and Growth alongside the French government.

We meet at very challenging times. COVID-19’s toll on our economies and societies has been immense. The pandemic also threatens to reverse the progress made in gender equality over the last half century. Women are under increased strain in the labour market, the healthcare system, at home and online. Between the end of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020, we recorded a 3.5% reduction in the employment rate of women across OECD countries, compared to a 3.3% reduction for men.

During the same time, 29.4 million women aged 25 and over lost their jobs, according to the ILO. Women in health care, who make up 70% of its workforce, have reported increased stress, burn-out and depression. An additional 15 million women could face gender-based violence for every 3 months of lockdown. This is precisely why OECD Ministers during our Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM) in October agreed to redouble efforts to address systemic barriers to gender equality in the recovery, highlighting that gender equality and growth are inseparable.

As we mark our 60th Anniversary, we confirm that gender equality has been a longstanding priority for our Organisation.

As early as the 1970s, we were already defining gender equality as “not purely women’s issues”, covering a much broader set of issues other than just labour market entry such as child-care, education and training as well as “the sex-stereotyping of social roles”.

In the last 60 years, the gender gap in labour force participation has closed from 47.8% to 15.5% across OECD countries. The gender pay gap has also narrowed in many countries over the past few decades – now less than 13%. At the OECD, we are honoured to be a part of this historic achievement.

We have spearheaded the global effort to promote structural reforms for women’s empowerment among and beyond our Membership through the OECD Gender Recommendations, the G20 Brisbane Target monitoring exercise, the Social Institution and Gender Index (SIGI) that monitors the SDG 5.1.1. and our broader global strategy to address discriminatory legal frameworks and social norms.

The OECD has nurtured its ability to wire together different silos to tackle problems that are systemic in nature. In doing so, gender considerations have been firmly established in policymaking.

Dear guests,

The crisis is providing us with a unique opportunity to redress inequalities. But this is not something any of us can do on our own. Today's conference can provide just the impetus we need, and I entrust the care of carrying this torch to the Beijing +25 Generation Equality Forum.

Thank you.

Secretary of State Pannier, the floor is yours.


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