The economic cost of violence against women


Council of Women World Leaders high-level discussion at UN General Assembly

Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

New York, 21 September 2016

(As prepared for delivery)



Your Excellency Dalia Grybauskaite, Excellencies, Ministers, dear colleagues,


It is a great privilege to be here alongside world leaders who are working to end violence against women and girls. Violence that is an affront to our basic human rights, and that affects not only individuals, but also our families, our societies, and our economies.


Those of us who were here in New York last year for the launch of the SDGs will recall the excitement, the ambition, the genuine consensus. The inclusion of a target for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls is, I believe, a particularly strong achievement of the SDGs. Now we need to get on and do it!


Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, no country is immune from this pandemic, and no country can afford to ignore it. Each of us must be part of the solution.


At the OECD, we’re deploying all the tools we have to support these efforts. This includes better evidence, improved public policies, and enforceable standards. Allow me to say a few words about each of these.


More data, better quantification of the costs of violence against women


First, we’re increasing our focus on evidence. Data on the prevalence and incidence of gender-based violence remain scarce, yet it’s crucial if we’re serious about meeting SDG Target 5.2.


Our new research will enable cross-country comparison across all OECD countries. And as we work with the OECD countries to track what they’re doing to tackle violence against women and girls, we will also track what they do to support partner countries. Just last year we upgraded our statistical system to allow us to track – for the first time ever – aid in support of ending violence against women.


Evidence of effort also needs to be matched with evidence of impact. And here I am talking about impact on people – on individual women and girls. We will expand our work on well-being to shine a spotlight on the links between women’s well-being and violence. We will look at quantifying the true costs of violence by including the impact on subjective well-being. Initial research suggests that being assaulted may be equivalent, in life satisfaction terms, to losing between 50,000 and 90,000 US dollars in annual income. It might sound crude – and sometimes these estimates are – but very often, putting a number to an issue is an effective way of drawing attention to it.


Better policies to help stamp out discrimination


Second, we will focus on policies that respond to the discriminatory social norms that drive violence. Our Social Institutions and Gender Index, or SIGI, looks at laws, attitudes, social norms and practices around violence against women. Across the 160 countries included in SIGI, one in three women agrees that domestic violence is justified; in some countries, these acceptance rates climb close to 90%. How can we even begin to tackle violence if women believe it can be justified?


Our estimates suggest that discriminatory social institutions – including violence against women – cost the global economy approximately 12 trillion US dollars a year. So while it is critical to put in place laws, budgets and plans to transform discriminatory social norms, we also need to empower women and girls, men and boys, to challenge – and change – these norms.


Better standards, safer economies


Finally, we will continue our work on global standards to empower women as economic actors and prevent violence against them in global supply chains. We are particularly proud of our co-operation with the UN Security Council to prevent conflict financing and violence against women in the production and trade of minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Côte d’Ivoire, for example. This work has helped to improve market access for more than 100,000 artisanal miners, many of them women. It’s also helped to eradicate the economic opportunities that fuel the armed groups that prey on women and girls.


Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I have shared just a few examples of how we, at the OECD, are acting on violence against women. Better data, better policies, better standards. The human rights imperative is crystal clear. The economic case has been made. Now let’s get on and deliver better gender policies and better policies on violence against women and girls.  


Thank you.




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