Gender and development

Women’s Economic Empowerment


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The unequal distribution of unpaid care work is holding back progress on women’s economic empowerment. The development community committed to address this issue in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 5.4. We generate data, evidence and policy guidance on 'what works' to recognise, reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work in developing countries.

OECD Policy Dialogue on Women’s Economic Empowerment

The Policy Dialogue generates cross-country comparable data and analysis on constraints imposed by unpaid care work on women to inform policy design and monitoring; and steers inclusive, evidence-based policy guidance to address women’s unpaid care domestic workload.

Our work focuses on four policy domains identified in SDG target 5.4:

  • public services: access to basic health services and education, etc.
  • infrastructure: energy, transport, water, etc.
  • social protection: cash transfers, maternity leave, etc.
  • shared responsibility within the household

The Policy Dialogue will build on the OECD’s extensive work and expertise on gender and development, including: the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), the Time Use Database and the tracking of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in support women’s economic empowerment.

Aid towards gender equality in the productive and economic sectors

Source: OECD, Creditor Reporting System (database)

ODA to developing countries reached USD 153 billion in 2019. USD 53 billion of bilateral allocable aid (on average per year) focused on gender equality in 2018-19. That corresponds to 45% and is higher than ever before.

The bulk of this amount (USD 47.5 billion) was committed to programmes that integrate gender equality as a significant, or mainstreamed, policy objective.

Only USD 5.7 billion was dedicated to gender equality as the principal objective of the programme, corresponding to 5 % of bilateral aid.

Total aid integrating a gender equality perspective in the economic and productive sectors – which are essential for women’s economic empowerment – reached USD 18 billion on average per year in 2018-19, representing 47% of DAC members’ total bilateral aid in these sectors.


Unpaid care work

Source: OECD (2014), Gender, Institutions and Development Database

Time spent on unpaid care work varies by gender and region

  • Women around the world spend, on average, more than twice as much time on unpaid care and domestic work than men
  • MENA and SA present the biggest gap between sexes
  • Social norms play an important role in the distribution of tasks in the household
  • Recognizing, reducing and redistributing unpaid domestic work leads to economic empowerment


Policy approaches to unpaid care work

Enabling Women’s Economic Empowerment: New Approaches to Unpaid Care Work in Developing Countries


Women’s unequal share of unpaid care work can prevent their full participation in the economies of developing countries; however, care needs are growing globally. How can governments and development partners meet the needs of families and communities, while ensuring that all citizens benefit from economic opportunities and fair remuneration? This report focuses on identifying what works to address unpaid care work and sheds light on how governments, donors in the private sector and civil society actors – among others – can design policies to support both those who need care and those who provide care. The report brings together existing knowledge of policy options for unpaid care work across regions, in four policy areas: infrastructure, social protection, public services and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household.


Further reading


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