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75 years is too long to wait for equal pay: Oxfam urges G20 to act on gender gap

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Women won’t be paid as much as men for another 75 years, warned international relief and development organization Oxfam International in a new report today, which urges G20 leaders to tackle gender inequality when they meet in Australia later this year.

The G20 and gender equality – How the G20 can advance women’s rights in employment, social protection and fiscal policies shows how the G20’s growth ambitions cannot be realized without policies addressing systemic discrimination and economic exclusion of women across G20 countries.

The report, co-published with the Heinrich Boell Foundation, is being released as the Business 20 (B20) – one of the satellite conferences in the lead-up to the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane in November - meets in Sydney this week.

Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said that across G20 countries and beyond, women were paid less than men, did most of the unpaid labor, were over-represented in part-time work and were discriminated against in the household, markets and institutions.

“This gap between women and men reflects a fundamental and entrenched form of inequality afflicting G20 countries, despite the gains that have undoubtedly been made in some areas,” Byanyima said.

Depending on the country context, an extra 20 – 60 per cent would be added to the GDP of individual G20 countries if the hidden contribution of unpaid work – such as caring for children or carrying out housework – was recognized and valued.

Byanyima commented: “Meanwhile, if women’s paid employment rates were the same as men’s, the USA’s GDP would increase by nine per cent, the Eurozone’s by 13 per cent and Japan’s by 16 per cent.”

She said the absence of women’s rights drove poverty, while their fulfillment could drive development. 

“The G20’s growth and development can only be considered inclusive – and can only make a positive difference to people – when women and men have equal opportunities to benefit, human rights are fulfilled and sustainable development is pursued,” Byanyima said.  “These are not ‘women’s issues’ alone – they are systemic issues that determine the wellbeing of everyone, in rich and poor countries alike.”

Among Oxfam’s recommendations for the G20 are: to support an accountable post-2015 UN process and inclusion of standalone goals on extreme economic inequality, gender equality and women’s rights; to target employment policies to create decent jobs for women, eliminate gender wage gaps and occupational segregation; end workplace gender discrimination and promote family-friendly policies such as parental leave entitlements, access to care for children and the elderly, and social insurance, and promote financing of public services to reduce women’s unpaid care work.

“In 2012 in the Los Cabos Declaration, G20 leaders committed to tackling the barriers to women’s full economic and social participation and to expanding opportunities for women in their countries,” Byanyima remarked.  “During the Australian presidency, the G20 has the chance to keep its promise – by working towards economic growth that is truly inclusive and promotes women’s rights.”

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