The 65th CSW Side-Event: Generating empowerment, empowering generations – Delivering on women’s economic empowerment and rights, 17 March 2021


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 17 March 2021

Dear Ministers, distinguished guests,

It is my honour to join you for this important discussion to mark the 65th anniversary of the Committee on the Status of Women. I would like to thank the governments of Sweden and Korea, as well as the World Bank for co-hosting today’s event.

Over the past 12 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed 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 finances. Women continue to shoulder a large share of the COVID-19 burden. They are disproportionately affected by the crisis, often due to lack of voice, lack of security – both physical and economic – and deep-rooted socio-cultural barriers.

Our latest Interim Economic Outlook projects global GDP to bounce back by 5.6% in 2021 and 4.0% in 2022, but the near-term outlook and long-lasting effects of the crisis remain uncertain. Even worse, the pandemic may trigger a secondary health and mental health crisis. For example, CARE International [our Civil Society Partner in the Generation Equality Forum], found that the number of women who reported mental health impacts from COVID-19 was threefold that of men.

An uncertain and uneven recovery could also exacerbate the labour market crisis. In the fourth quarter of 2020, the OECD unemployment rate for women was 7.4% compared to 6.8% for men. Today, women are paid 13% less than men across the OECD. As a result, many women have dropped out or consider dropping out of the labour market altogether; it has simply become impossible for them to handle added care responsibilities and work.
Earlier this week, during our Global Strategy Group (GSG) meeting, we discussed with Ministers how our efforts can help the economy bounce back, and society bounce “forward”. Looking ahead, we need to move away from a patchwork response. We need a more systemic approach to gender equality. Let me briefly describe some ways in which we can achieve these goals.

First, it remains paramount to apply a gender lens to all COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. According to the UN, supporting women’s economic opportunities and the care economy could add 13 trillion US dollars to the global GDP by 2030. This confirms that gender equality and growth are inseparable.

Second, as we emerge from the pandemic, we must also address both new and pre-existing structural challenges to reinvigorate economic growth and ensure its resilience, sustainability and inclusiveness. This means placing women at the core of the digital transformation to unleash the potential of millions to the economy of the future. This would also facilitate the relocation of productive resources and boost productivity.

Third, it is also time to recognise women and girls as crucial leaders of climate movements and innovators of climate solutions. It is important to support them through job transitions, gender and green budgeting, green bonds and other financing instruments. Today’s discussion was an important step in this direction.

Let me conclude by stressing that the COVID-19 crisis is also a stark reminder that gender equality is not just a women’s issue. Social norms produce stereotypes about women and men into certain roles. The OECD has found that restrictive masculinities negatively affect women’s well-being and economic participation. These toxic masculine norms have to be transformed into positive outcomes that can empower women.

We have identified a range of policies that we can implement to facilitate such change, including by promoting work-life balance to recognise, reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work. But to make progress in this area we need governments, stakeholders, society, families and men to join forces.

Dear Friends,

As we focus our efforts on overcoming the crisis and building back better, we have an opportunity to also champion women’s economic empowerment. At the OECD we will continue monitoring progress made by countries in closing the gender gaps, and we will continue promoting women’s rights around the globe.

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

Thank you.


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