Analysis of aggregate data contained in the OECD Green Recovery Database provides for some key findings under the gender-environment nexus:

  • Only 18 out of the 705 measures in the OECD Green Recovery Database assessed for gender relevance and gender sensitivity (2.5%) are considered gender‑relevant. Thirteen of the gender-relevant measures are also considered to be gender-sensitive.

  • The majority of these 18 measures are assessed as likely to have positive impacts on the environment, implying that gender and environmental goals can go hand-in-hand. Taking gender considerations into account when designing and implementing green recovery measures could contribute both to reducing gender inequalities and achieving environmental objectives.

  • Half of the gender-relevant green recovery measures are linked to skills, training and R&D subsidies. When assessed based on gender-sensitivity, the majority of the gender-sensitive recovery measures will contribute to supporting women’s economic security.

  • Gender-relevant measures are concentrated in sectors such as buildings, energy and surface transport. No gender-relevant measures are found in the Database’s other sector categories (agriculture, forestry, maritime transport, air transport, industry or waste management), indicating vast untapped potential for introducing a gender perspective into the design and implementation of green recovery measures.

A gendered approach to the green recovery can put economies on a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient path by supporting/contributing to better healthcare systems, food security, more sustainable work and entrepreneurial opportunities for women, more sustainable mobility practices, as well as more sustainable production and consumption patterns (OECD, 2021[1]); (OECD/European Commission, 2021[2]).

Released in April 2021, the OECD Green Recovery Database catalogues policy measures introduced by countries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that are likely to have an impact across one or more environmental dimensions. At present, the Database contains around 1 380 measures spread over 44 countries and the European Union, covering policy areas including energy, pollution (air and plastics), water, biodiversity, and waste management.

In September 2021, two gender tags were added to the Green Recovery Database in order to map measures that also take into account the gender-environment nexus. Measures could additionally be classified as:

Gender-relevant: policies that include at least one of the words “gender”, “sex”, “women”, “female” or “girl” in their description.

Gender-sensitive1: policies that address one of the following challenges or risks faced by women and girls during the COVID-19 crisis:

  • Unpaid care work (i.e. increased household and care responsibilities) – measures related to social protection and the labour market, e.g. cash transfers specifically targeting women affected by climate change and environmental degradation, or sustainable and gender‑sensitive social infrastructure.

  • Women’s economic security – social protection, labour market, and fiscal and economic measures understood to support the overall empowerment of women in societies. Examples include gender-differentiated support measures to promote green innovation and green jobs; targeted training for low-skilled and unemployed women; and measures to mitigate the differentiated impact of carbon taxes on women and men.

  • Violence against women – measures aimed at addressing gender-based violence or violence against women.

Just over half – or 705 – of the around 1 380 measures in the OECD Green Recovery Database include enough information to assess for their gender relevance and gender sensitivity. Of that number, only 18 are found to be gender‑relevant. Thirteen of the gender-relevant measures are also considered to be gender‑sensitive.

Definitions for the two gender tags were based on the UNDP‑UN Women COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker, which focuses on gender-differentiated effects of policy measures targeting development challenges and/or risks exacerbated by the COVID‑19 crisis. However, analysis on scope, sector targeted, type of measure, environmental dimension and impact follow the methodology used for the OECD Green Recovery Database (Figure 1). While the UNDP-UN Women Gender Policy Tracker classifies measures by policy types (loans, equity, social assistance etc.) under four policy categories (fiscal/economic support, labour market, social protection, violence against women), the OECD Green Recovery Database classifies measures by policy area only (tax/subsidy, grant or loan, regulatory change, skills and training, R&D subsidies, other), given that the policies contained therein already relate to climate change and the environment.

To date, analyses of policy measures under the gender-environment nexus have not been included in neither COVID‑19 policy responses nor green recovery measures. Existing trackers for COVID‑19-related or green recovery policies focus either on environmental measures, or horizontally on measures promoting gender equality, but not in combination (OECD, 2021[4]); (UNDP and UN Women, n.d.[5]) To help fill this gap, the OECD, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women are working jointly to develop a green sub-tracker for the UNDP-UN Women Gender Policy Tracker. The analysis contained in this paper is the OECD’s contribution towards this effort.

The results presented below should be interpreted with caution. The analysis describes policies as being gender-sensitive and/or gender-relevant, but cannot measure the degree of their impact or effective implementation. The results indicate only to what extent different countries have included gender considerations in their communication strategies and recovery strategy documents – deeper analysis is needed to discern whether the policies bear any significant impact with respect to gender equality goals. Some measures contained in the Green Recovery Database may have integrated gender‑sensitive components in their preparation, development and implementation, but are not identified as such due to limitations in the time and length of analysis provided. Other measures may not include gender considerations in their design, but could potentially produce gender-differentiated impacts when implemented. These measures are also not part of the analysis.

The data sample cannot be taken as definitive, as only 51% of the policy measures contained in the Green Recovery Database currently include enough information to be assessed using the gender tags (Figure 2). Nevertheless, gender relevance and gender sensitivity in the measures that were analysed is very limited, and this finding would likely remain consistent even if it had been possible to examine the total number of measures through a gender lens.

There is a likely bias towards reporting of environmentally positive measures compared to negative ones, both in terms of total numbers of measures and funding (OECD, 2021[4]). This is because positive recovery measures are more visible and likely to be identified as relevant to the environment, and funding for positive measures is reported more frequently.

Describing the net impact of an environmental measure as positive or negative is a simplification (see Box 1) (OECD, 2021[4]). Nevertheless, the majority of gender-relevant measures also described as environmentally positive are expected to benefit women and girls, demonstrating that the two objectives can be, and increasingly are, pursued hand in hand, as identified in OECD research (OECD, 2021[1]).

The comprehensiveness of coverage varies between countries, with OECD members generally having more in-depth coverage than Key Partner countries.2 Differences in scale, duration, design and/or implementation makes comparison of similar measures between countries impossible. Moreover, the level of gender mainstreaming in policies prior to the COVID-19 crisis may differ across countries.

Finally, though there is a bias towards reporting green recovery measures with the potential to improve gender equality and/or women’s empowerment, no evaluation has been conducted to assess their actual effects and impact. Such analysis would require more information and data on the design and implementation of individual policies.

Hence, only a qualitative and quantitative analysis of each of the measures assessed as gender-relevant can confirm to what extent they address environmental issues while accounting for gender-differentiated challenges. Such analysis would also allow for deeper understanding and offer interesting policy insights.

Of the 705 out of 1 375 measures contained in the OECD Green Recovery Database analysed for gender‑relevance or gender-sensitivity, only 18 are explicitly identified as gender-relevant (Figure 2). Another 20 of the measures could not be directly linked to women nor men, so are marked as “not applicable” (N/A). The remaining 667 of the measures (almost 49% of the total) do not include enough information to determine whether or not the gender tags can be applied. Therefore, the ability to apply a gender lens to green recovery measures is limited.

However, there are significant gains to be made from applying a gender lens to green recovery measures. As the analysis in the following sections shows, the majority of measures identified as gender-relevant are also assessed as likely to have positive impacts on the environment. This implies that gender and environmental goals can go hand in hand, and that incorporating gender considerations into more green recovery measures could contribute both to reducing gender inequality and improving the environment.

Sixteen of the 18 the gender-relevant measures are classified as likely to have a positive environmental impact (Figure 3; Box 1). These include schemes to equip women with skills in preparation for green jobs, infrastructure projects, or renovating childcare facilities (thereby reducing their environmental impact and expanding their capacities, allowing women to work). The remaining two measures have either a mixed or a negative impact on the environment. The mixed impact measure is linked to an infrastructure project in the rail transport sector, where an environmental impact assessment is still pending. The gender-relevant measure assessed as likely to have a negative environmental impact is a programme to provide women below the poverty line with free liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders. Despite the negative environmental impact, there are clear gains for women’s empowerment as switching to LPG cylinders can provide cleaner cooking facilities compared to using traditional stoves (IEA, 2017[6]).

As gender-relevant measures are overwhelmingly also positive for the environment, the implication is that the two can work together and so including a gender perspective in more of the recovery measures would be beneficial both socially and environmentally.

Gender-relevant measures in the Green Recovery Database take many forms. Nine of the 18 measures are related to skills and training, and R&D subsidies (Figure 4), often through investments into upskilling, green jobs or inclusion of women in STEM-related jobs. Three support measures are in the form of grants and loans, tax reductions, and subsidies, with a focus on supporting women-owned or women‑led businesses. The one measure depicting regulatory changes focuses on introducing a gender equality perspective in the just transition, supporting female participation in certain sectors. Measures that do not belong to the above categories (“other/not specified measures”) make up another 28%, including building renovations, energy efficiency and improved sustainable mobility.

The majority of the gender-relevant measures are being implemented nationally, either as economy-wide measures (44.4%), or sectoral ones (38.9%) (Figure 5). There are only limited number of city/regional measures in comparison (16.7%).

Economy-wide measures include supporting women’s access to the green economy and green jobs, and developing green skills. Sectoral measures include investments in buildings renovation and energy efficiency, as well as large-scale transport infrastructure such as railway expansions. City-level or regional measures include local improvements such as constructing cycling lanes or improving sustainable infrastructure for childcare facilities.

Only half of the gender-relevant green recovery measures are attributed to a specific sector, namely buildings (16.6%), energy (16.6%) and surface transport (16.6%). No gender-relevant measures are found in the agriculture, forestry, maritime transport, air transport, industry or waste management sector categories (Figure 6).

Gender-relevant measures in the buildings sector include expanding and renovating infrastructure such as childcare facilities or prisons, as well as improving the living conditions and energy efficiency of residential buildings, particularly in vulnerable areas. The energy measures are typically focused on enhancing the use of renewable resources with a focus on including women in the energy transition, promoting green jobs and contributing to a gender-just transition. Land transport investments mainly contribute to the expansion and improvement of public transport networks within and between cities and aim to create safer, more inclusive and more sustainable mobility options.

For several sectors, no gender-relevant measures were identified. These include agriculture, forestry, maritime transport, air transport, industry and waste management. Research shows that male-dominated sectors - such as heavy industry, infrastructure and aviation - tend to be more energy intensive and a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, yet they receive high levels of funding (OECD, 2021[4]). On the other hand, funding in some environment-related economic sectors where the presence of women is somewhat more enhanced (e.g. forestry or agriculture) often receive lower levels of funding.

Many of these areas are highly relevant to gender equality and, at the same time, change within them could bring about significant environmental benefits. For instance, women in OECD countries account for 28% of the agricultural labour force, yet supporting women in agriculture can lead to more sustainable practices as well as increase the total agricultural output (OECD, 2021[1]). If more of the recovery measures related to agriculture apply a gender-disaggregated approach, these multiple objectives could be pursued at once. Increasing gender-responsive funding to industries in which women are underrepresented and where environmental impacts are positive could be beneficial both in terms of gender equality and environmental sustainability.

Whilst this sectoral analysis indicates the distribution amongst the sectors, it is important to note that it is not without its limitations. The statistics presented in this section do not consider the importance of the different measures and sectors nor the volume of funding associated with them. Therefore, while some sectors may be strongly represented when looking at the number of measures, in terms of the budget allocation or the size of their impact they might be more prevalent than the current analysis would suggest.

Finally, the “multiple/n.a.” category, which covers 50% of the gender-relevant policy measures, hides some of the underlying variation in the types of projects and schemes. It contains mostly economy-wide measures on developing skills and training and providing R&D subsidies, which support women’s economic empowerment. It should, however, be noted that since some measures cannot be categorised under the component sectors at the stage of their planning, there is a natural bias towards them being recorded into this category.

The OECD Green Recovery Database classifies each measure under up to three environmental dimensions. Each measure may, therefore, be categorised under multiple environmental dimensions. The most common dimensions where gender-relevant measures are identified are climate mitigation (with 17 measures) and air pollution (13 measures). Eight measures were not classified (they were classified under “other”) (Figure 7). Only a small proportion of measures target adaptation, biodiversity and water. No gender-relevant measures were identified in relation to plastics, waste and recycling.

Climate mitigation and air pollution predominance in the dimensions identified, can be explained by countries’ prioritisation in reducing emissions and improving energy efficiency (such as by transitioning to renewable energy, supporting low-emission transport or improving insulation in buildings). The measures classified as “other” are typically linked to skills training and include providing vocational training and improving education to prepare women for green jobs and equip them with green skills, as well as to include them in a just transition.

Budget allocation for the gender-relevant measures contained in the Green Recovery Database – irrespective of their environmental impact – varies greatly, ranging from USD 15 million to USD 2.2 billion per measure, adding up to USD 4.2 billion. Total COVID-19 recovery spending is about USD 3.2 trillion, and environmentally positive recovery measures contained in the Database account for around USD 677 billion (OECD, 2021[7]). Here, it is important to note that sufficient budget data is available for only 12 of the 18 gender-relevant measures, so this finding should be interpreted with caution. For the remaining measures the budget has not been communicated or the exact breakdown of budget allocation is unclear. For example, for measures such as changes in regulation, determining an exact monetary value is challenging. Other aspects, such as differences in timeframes, makes comparison between measures or sectors difficult.

Total budget allocation of the gender-relevant green recovery measures assessed environmentally positive gender-relevant measures adds up to about USD 2 billion, with almost 69% of such measures including information on the estimate of the monetary value. The measure with mixed environmental impact is also the one with the highest budget (USD 2.2 billion), and covers a large railway infrastructure project. No budget allocation was available for the one environmentally negative measure.

Nevertheless, this information gives an indication of the size of the measures known to contribute to both environmental and gender goals and indicates that most of the budget is allocated towards environmentally positive measures.

Only 13 out of the 18 gender-relevant measures are also considered as gender-sensitive. The majority of the gender-sensitive measures (11 out of 13) contribute to supporting women’s economic security (Figure 8). These range from skills training for green jobs to R&D subsidies that support women’s employment in the green economy.

Only one of the gender-sensitive measures is identified as supporting unpaid care. This objective is highly relevant for gender equality, considering that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, unpaid work was disproportionately taken on by women (OECD Gender Data Portal). As women are traditionally in charge of domestic work caring for children and the elderly, they are less able to participate in the labour market than men and are more financially dependent on others. This was even more visible during the pandemic, with early survey data suggesting that women generally took on additional family care responsibilities (UN Women, 2020[8]). In the United Kingdom, for instance, the number of hours mothers dedicated to paid work in April 2020 was 22% lower than the numbers of hours recorded in the 2014/15 UK Time Use Survey (Andrew et al., 2020[9]). Even before the pandemic, women across the OECD provided, on average, two hours more per day of unpaid care than men (OECD, 2021[10]) Linking more green recovery measures to supporting unpaid care could help to reduce gender inequality.

Addressing violence against women (VAW) was also only included once (in improving access to justice and in parallel improving energy efficiency and renovating courts and prisons). VAW merits more attention under the gender-environment nexus, especially as it is part of national COVID-19 policy responses in OECD countries.

Five of the 18 gender-relevant green recovery measures could not be attributed to any of the three objectives on gender-sensitivity mentioned above (Figure 8). This could be an indication of limited gender mainstreaming or assessment during the design, development and implementation phases of these measures, or due to possible multiple applicable objectives.

The Green Recovery Database contains 18 policy measures that are classified as gender‑relevant, i.e. measures that both support the green recovery and explicitly recognise gender‑differentiated impacts or aim to contribute to reducing gender inequality. The remaining green recovery measures are either not identified as gender-relevant in the analysis, or countries did not integrate gender-responsive or gender‑specific interventions when designing/preparing/introducing them. This gap indicates a vast untapped potential for introducing gender considerations in green recovery measures (Figure 9).

This section looks into the sectors where gender-relevant measures were identified in the database and presents them against similar ones that do not have a gender tag. The relevant sectors include buildings, energy, surface transport and multiple/n.a. (typically economy-wide measures which span across various industries). The following analysis shows that there is potential for many current recovery measures to include a gender perspective. It also provides more detail on those that do, as these can serve as case studies for other countries.

Three out of the 18 gender-relevant green recovery measures are attributed to the buildings sector (Figure 6). Seen another way, only 3 of the 130 measures in the Buildings category of the Green Recovery Database are tagged as gender-relevant (Figure 9).

Buildings-related measures typically include improving insulation or energy efficiency of residential buildings, leading to better living conditions, or building and renovating facilities that provide important public services such as schools and kindergartens. Such projects reduce air pollution and help combat climate change by reducing GHG emissions from inefficient heating or energy use.

From a gender perspective, the benefits are twofold. First, increased childcare facilities and similar public services reduce the burden of unpaid care on women, leaving more time for work and other economic activities, thereby contributing to women’s economic empowerment. Second, building renovations such as improved heating systems can reduce air pollution, particularly indoors. Studies show that women are disproportionately vulnerable to indoor air pollution (OECD, 2021[1]).

Currently, only a few countries apply gender-sensitivity to their building renovation measures, but these effects will be relevant for almost all similar measures. Adding gender-sensitive indicators and focusing such building projects on those that will support women can help countries achieve environmental, economic and social goals with the same measures.

Some of the building projects are focused on schools and daycare, such as energy efficiency improvements of schools in Belgium’s Walloon region or investment in expanding the capacities of preschool daycare in the Czech Republic. Similar investments are part of the measures in Greece, Italy, Slovak Republic, the United Kingdom and the United States, even though they do not address the potential gender benefits.

Some of the measures improve energy efficiency in education infrastructure, such as a Belgian measure that invests USD 67 million into the creation and renovation of early childcare infrastructure aimed at achieving a significant reduction in primary energy demand and which enables caretakers to take a more active part in the labour force. Together with improved mobility, local development initiatives and buildings, urban development measures make up almost 39% of the gender-relevant green recovery measures. The actual number of similar measures is significantly higher though, with other countries (including Brazil, Colombia, France and South Africa) also investing in water, sanitation and sewage facilities without directly linking them to gender goals.

As Figure 9 shows, there is still significant scope for integrating a gender element into green recovery measures related specifically to buildings, as currently 98% of them do not take a gender‑differentiated perspective.

Only 3 of the 18 gender-relevant green recovery measures are related to surface transport (Figure 6). Clearly, there is a need to acknowledge and address gender-differentiated experiences with transport infrastructure.

Land transport and mobility investments are amongst the most common gender-relevant green recovery measures, typically in the form of expanding railway and bicycle lane networks. For example, Mexico’s 4S mobility strategy aims at increasing public transport use by offering more sustainable, safer and more inclusive transport options. The strategy prioritises both reduced car use and therefore decreased emissions from transport, and improved services for women, children and vulnerable groups. The expansion of Cycling Lanes in Mexico City, a COVID-19 response measure for safer urban mobility, recognises in its analysis the lack of sufficient provisions for women to feel safe when using existing infrastructure. Expanding transport options, implementing projects such as smart mobility or transport-as-a-service, and making travelling cheaper and safer are part of several other countries’ recovery plans (i.e. Belgium, Canada, Spain, France, Greece and Italy), but these measures have not been explicitly linked to gender goals. Analysis shows that women prefer public transport modes more than men, and therefore improving public transport networks and infrastructure could also advance women’s economic empowerment (OECD, 2021[1]); (Ng and Acker, 2018[11]).

In the energy sector, a total of 360 measures have been identified by the OECD Green Recovery Database, yet less than 1% of these are identified as gender-relevant (Figure 9). They include programmes such as equipping women with green skills so that they can work in the renewables industry. The lack of a gender aspect in energy-related recovery measures illustrates that there is significant potential for doing so, particularly considering the transformation in the energy sector due to the transition to a low-carbon economy and the fact that fossil fuel energy industry is much more male-dominated than the renewable energy sector. Policies supporting women’s entrepreneurship and lifting barriers to women’s and girls’ education and advancement in STEM carriers, could also support the transition to a low-carbon economy (OECD, 2021[1]).

Alongside the previous sectors, some gender-relevant recovery measures can be found in the multiple/others category. This often includes measures that are economy-wide, such as regulatory changes or tax breaks. Measures spanning more than one industry are also included in the category.

Amongst the 343 measures from the OECD Green Recovery Database filed under this category, nine (about 2.7%) are classified as gender-relevant (Figure 9). Green jobs are an example of such measures contributing to gender as well as environmental goals. For instance, in Greece and Portugal green skills and jobs will be enhanced with a particular focus on women and girls. Vocational and other training programmes are included in multiple other green recovery plans, for example with a focus on renewable energy or biodiversity protection. These plans could be expanded to contribute to gender goals by dedicating some of the programmes specifically for girls and women, such as by increasing their participation in STEM careers. Sweden has also included a plan to provide green jobs to people who are currently far from the labour market, a measure that could largely include women. There is thus a lot of space for including a gender element into recovery measures that span across industries, which can significantly affect both gender and the environment on an even larger scale.

Alongside a focus on specific sectors, recovery measures can integrate gender considerations whilst focusing on different disadvantaged groups, communities or regions, such as indigenous people. Indigenous communities are often particularly vulnerable to climate change due to the areas that they live in or because of fewer adaptation provisions in place. At the same time, women in these communities are often at the forefront of protecting natural resources and biodiversity, restoring ecosystems and running grassroots movements (OECD, 2021[1]).

Measures that could contribute to both environmental and gender ambitions in relation to indigenous groups include improving infrastructure, green energy provision, improvements in local transportation networks, or programmes to support the protection of indigenous habitats and biodiversity. Such measures have already been identified in Canada, New Zealand, the United States and South Africa. By including a gender element, the countries could ensure that the positive gender benefits are captured alongside the environmental ones.

  • Green recovery measures are a relatively small component of countries’ COVID-19 stimulus packages. Green recovery policy measures that are also gender-sensitive are even less common. However, some countries do appear to prioritise gender, particularly when it comes to policy measures in the buildings and surface transport sectors, or to enhancing women’s green skills and supporting their inclusion in green labour markets.

  • More needs to be done in sectors where no gender-relevant green recovery measures have been identified, namely: agriculture, forestry, maritime transport, air transport, industry and waste management. The differentiated experiences of women in these sectors are often overlooked, yet health impacts and consequences from environmental deterioration in these sectors tend to have more sever impacts on women. This can be due to both different degrees of exposure and of vulnerability, and hence should be accounted for in policy. Introducing ex-ante and ex-post gender impact assessment into green recovery measures, could help evaluate, analyse and assess both direct and indirect implications to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

  • Countries should align their commitments on gender equality and environmental policies with the policy measures introduced. As countries reorient their priorities, it is important to embed gender equality in longer-term strategies such as on environmental protection and climate change.

  • Countries should also consider prioritising and implementing environmental policies which also have a positive impact in advancing social and gender equality. Showcasing the dual benefits from such policy measures will allow in the future a better integration of the gender-environment nexus in other policy areas.

  • Further data collection, recurrent analysis and updated methodologies are needed to monitor gender impacts of policies that can help identify good policy practices.

  • A set of gender-environment indicators could support analysis on the gender-differentiated impacts of environmental policy measures, and could be used to develop gender-responsive policies. The OECD has already developed a few of such indicators, and this effort could be further enhanced, building on existing OECD environment and gender indicators.

  • Integrating gender sensitivity in environmental measures is key for advancing girls’ and women’s empowerment, yet it cannot be taken as a one-size-fits-all approach. Recovery measures need to account for intersectionality and the experiences different women have with the environment, depending on their position in society and the specific layers of discrimination different women may face.

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Contact

Sigita STRUMSKYTE (✉ sigita.strumskyte@oecd.org)

Dimitra XYNOU (✉ dimitra.xynou@oecd.org)

Notes

← 1. The three groups of gender-sensitive policies described below follow the categorisation used under the UNDP-UN Women COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker. For more information, see under “Methodology”.

← 2. The OECD Green Recovery Database contains measures spread over 44 countries and the European Union. Beyond OECD members, other countries examined are Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa.

Disclaimer

This paper is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and the arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of OECD member countries.

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