Remarks by Angel Gurría
Mexico City, Mexico - 9 January 2020
(As prepared for delivery)
Secretary of Finance and Public Credit, Secretary of Labour and Social Welfare, Representative of UN Women in Mexico, President of the National Institute for Women (INMUJERES), Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to participate in this event on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women for Inclusive Growth in Mexico. In the 21st century, in an age where knowledge, science and human rights have reached their highest expression, women continue to be treated less fairly than men. In OECD countries, women have fewer career opportunities, face more obstacles to gainful employment, suffer from high levels of harassment and earn on average 14% less than men. This is unacceptable.
Gender equality and the empowerment of women are a human, political, social, as well as an economic, imperative. They are among the highest priorities for OECD governments and among the main objectives and responsibilities of our Organisation. I would like to thank the National Institute for Women (INMUJERES) and the Secretary of Labour for supporting the organisation of this event.
Mexico is facing major challenges in this area. Less than half of Mexican women of working age participate in the labour market. This is the second lowest rate of all OECD countries, and much lower than the rate for Mexican men active in the labour market, which is 82%. Almost 60% of the women who do work have informal jobs, with low social protection, high insecurity and low pay. One of the causes of this low participation is the excessive unpaid work burden borne by women in Mexico, which prevents them from devoting time to formal work. In fact, Mexican women carry out three quarters of all unpaid work in the home, including childcare. In addition, the long-hours work culture makes it difficult to strike a good work/life balance. The constant promotion of gender stereotypes in the media further reduces room for women's emancipation.
Mexican mothers and young women are up against major obstacles to finding paid work. The rate of young women who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) is 33%, 18 points higher than the OECD average. Mexican women are four times more likely than men to be NEET.
In addition, Mexico is one of the OECD countries with the highest levels of violence against women. In Mexico, 63% of women over the age of 15 state that they have been victims of some type of violence during their lives. This is a violation of their fundamental right to security and affects their ability to participate in the public and economic life of the country.
This has to change. Not only for moral and ethical reasons, not only as a matter of justice, but also for economic reasons. As we pointed out in the Review of Gender Policies in Mexico that we conducted in 2017, if Mexico were to halve the gender gap in labour force participation, it could potentially add 0.16 percentage points to the annual rate of growth in per capita GDP to 2.46% per year. This would translate into an increase of around USD 1100 in GDP per capita, one of the largest pay-offs to greater gender equality in Mexico.
Mexico has taken significant steps to promote equality and close gender gaps. These include the introduction of gender quotas in legislature in 2002, then in 2008 and 2014; the 2015-2018 National Programme for Equality between Women and Men (PROIGUALDAD); and the obligation for political parties to promote gender parity in nominations and to allocate 3% of their ordinary expenditure to training women.
But we have to do more, much more. We have to step up the implementation of the measures already taken and take further action. To close the gender gap, Mexico has to move forward on several fronts.
It is essential that the availability and quality of early childhood care and education services be improved in order to reduce the unpaid work burden, especially among mothers. Effective and affordable early childhood education and care services facilitate women's workforce participation, while giving children better opportunities in the essential learning phase. The children will also benefit from having their meals at a stable and scheduled time, and from socialising in a well-cared for and supervised environment.
Paternity leave management is another possible area for improvement. In Mexico, fathers working in formal jobs are only entitled to 5 days of paid leave. This is one of the most precarious paternity leaves in the OECD. Mexico needs to make efforts to extend this leave, with the support of employers. Paternity leave supported by public funding may also increase men’s incentives to exercise this right.
It is also essential that gender stereotypes be eliminated from textbooks and teaching, while regulating such stereotypes in the mass media. The media must also make a greater effort to eradicate violence against women in their programmes.
Progress towards gender equality also requires promoting greater representation of women in leadership positions. Mexico has been a leader in measures to increase the participation of women in public life. By 2017, women already held more than 40 per cent of seats in Congress, well above the OECD average of 30 per cent.
However, there is still only very limited room for Mexican women in the private sector. The glass ceiling in the business sector is still a reality. Women comprise only 7.5% of the management boards of Mexico's largest companies, far below the OECD average of 20%. This needs to change. We do not want decision-making in the Mexican private sector to be men only.
Promoting the participation of women in STEM professions (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is crucial to closing gender gaps in the labour market and promoting more inclusive growth. The European Union (EU) estimates that closing the STEM gender gap could result in a cumulative increase in EU GDP per capita of up to 3%. Increasing women's participation in STEM is one of the best inclusive development policies.
That is why it is with great satisfaction that we have launched the “NiñaSTEM Pueden” programme with the Mexican Government, a project aimed at stimulating the curiosity and passion of Mexican girls for STEM subjects through educational opportunities outside the classroom, inspired by meetings with women mentors who have excelled in these fields.
We welcome the fact that the current Government is giving priority to this issue: promoting a Cabinet with gender parity; integrating gender equality into the National Development Plan; bringing gender equality into the design and implementation of all Federal Government policies; joining forces with the European Union and the United Nations in the launch of the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls; to mention but a few important actions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Women's paid work contributes to total household income and helps to reduce inequalities. Women's labour market participation changes the distribution of resources in the household and helps to distribute unpaid work more evenly. The integration of mothers into the formal economy has a very positive impact on the well-being of children. Working mothers change gender standards and contribute to the elimination of harmful stereotypes. Women in government help improve the outcomes of social inclusion policies. The evidence is overwhelming.
Mexico holds the key to its inclusive and sustainable development. It is a magic formula: gender equality and the empowerment of Mexican women. Let us work together to achieve it. The OECD is ready to continue helping in the design, development and implementation of better gender policies for better lives. Thank you.