BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Thinking Beyond Our Borders

Posted by egehl on March 9, 2009

It’s easy to look within these days and think “woes me” not only for ourselves but for our fellow citizens and distressed country. But what about the women of the world? It’s hard to think about others when you feel such a sense of insecurity at home but it’s important that we realize that women around the world are suffering from our shared global economic crisis, not just an American one.  In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th let us take a moment to think about those living out of sight, but not out of mind.

According to the International Labor Office, a specialized agency within the United Nations, in their Global Employment Trends for Women report the economic crisis is expected to increase the number of unemployed women around the world by up to 22 million in 2009.  That’s a sizable number and exemplifies that we are facing something bigger than ourselves.  The economic crisis is impacting every country around the world and women who were already facing incredible economic, health and social odds now have to struggle even more from rapid joblessness and a weakened financial system.

The global economic crisis will place new hurdles in the path toward sustainable and social equitable growth making decent work for women increasingly more difficult.  According to the report, of the 3 billion people employed around the world in 2008 1.2 billion were women.  In 2009, the global unemployment rate for women could reach 7.4 percent, compared to 7.0 percent for men.

In countries where women lack fundamental rights, it’s worse.  Women living in disadvantaged positions will feel the economic crisis more acutely as they struggle to gain status in their society which will be thwarted because of high unemployment.

It is widely thought that if you lift a woman out of poverty you can lift up her whole family as well.  If a woman can gain an education, increase her skills, and better her financial situation she will intuitively involve her family.  However as women globally face low employment rates their level of control over property and resources will decrease and that can place them in a weaker position to deal with this crisis.  Like women in the United States, foreign women will take on multiple low-income jobs and work longer hours which will have a lasting impact on their family and its functionality.

Gender inequality will be exacerbated here and abroad as this economic crisis worsens.  Women will experience some of the worse consequences as they try to be the caregivers for their families with less money and opportunity to better their situation.  Already many women make due with jobs that pay low earnings and societies that give less social protection so this global crisis could push an already teetering situation over the edge.

We have plenty on our hands to deal with here at home, but let’s not forget our sisters worldwide.  We need to think about creative solutions to address the gender gap here and abroad.  Universally women are the predominant caregivers for their families and play many roles in society so any policy response should include a key gender equity component.

All women should have access to quality and sustainable jobs because the foreign repercussions of the economic crisis will have an impact on our success domestically.

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