Women, the Financial and Economic Crisis - the Urgency of a Gender Perspective (September 2009)

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL), the largest coalition of women’s organisations in the European Union (EU), urges policy makers at all levels of decision making to recognise women’s role in shaping the post crisis framework which, one year after the collapse of the financial markets, continues to ignore the gender impact of the crisis on the real lives of women and men.

statement financial crisis EN 10 09 09 en

The initial crisis and subsequent recovery plans at different levels – European, national and international (G20) – have failed to acknowledge, understand, analyse and rectify the gender impact of the crisis. Continuous denial of the gender impact of the crisis coupled with the exclusion of women as part of the solution runs the risk of returning to a ‘business-as-usual’ recovery strategy which, in the long term, will have detrimental consequences on the real lives of women, men, girls and boy as well as the environment in which we all live. Equality between women and men is one of the objectives of the EU – enshrined in the treaties –and must therefore be an inherent part of European, national and international recovery plans as well as the transition towards a longer term holistic vision of the post-crisis era.

The financial and economic crisis is gendered in its nature and in its effects. The global crisis is also impacting on women in other regions of the world with consequences on economies that depend on women’s work and income, including remittances. The EWL has the duty to ensure that an informed and balanced awareness of this feeds into policy-makers’ elaborations of appropriate responses and that women are included in the recovery and transition phases.

This current economic crisis is unlike previous recessions. One area where this is certainly the case is how this recession has had – and will continue to have – a much higher, albeit differentiated, impact on women. Indeed, the European Commission, in its 2009 Report on equality between men and women, asserted that ‘the economic slowdown is likely to affect women more than men’. Understanding and dealing with the gendered aspect of the impact of the crisis, in its various dimensions, represents a challenge for European and national policy makers.

In contrast to past periods of economic downturn, women today are the single biggest – and least acknowledged – force for economic growth on the planet. This is no arbitrary claim, but one made by The Economist, which suggests that, over the past few decades, women have contributed more to the expansion of the world economy than either new technologies or the emerging markets of China and India. This fact is being completely ignored. Furthermore, the unprecedented numbers of women on the labour-market means that they contribute to household incomes far more than ever before. Their integration into the work-place will mean not only a greater direct impact of the crisis on women themselves, but also on households, where incomes will be significantly affected by female job losses. But more importantly, the economic position of women at the start of the recession was by no means equal to that of men. With employment patterns characterised by gender segregated labour-markets, gender gaps in pay, higher levels of part-time work and high concentration in the so called informal sector with lower earnings and less social protection, women are not in an advantageous position to weather the crisis.

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