Women’s Equality Key to Economic Recovery
March 8, 2010 posted by Shyama Venkateswar
Today as we celebrate International Women’s Day all over the world, let us take a moment to reflect on how much more needs to be done for us to claim true gender equity even within the United States. The economic crisis or our Great Recession is unprecedented in terms of its global reach and its impact on governments, corporations and individuals alike. What this crisis has also done is profoundly demonstrate the existing disparities and inequalities within the United States.
Consider the following pieces of data:
- There are now 6.4 million women living in extreme poverty (below 50% of the federal poverty level)
- Single women with children have an unemployment rate of 12.3% compared to 5.8% for married women
- The racial wealth gap has widened in the last few years: for every dollar of wealth held by the typical white family in 2007, the black family had one dime down from 12 cents just three years earlier.
As members of Congress debate legislation to create jobs and other policies to address our economic problems, we must also make sure that our recovery efforts move us to an economy that addresses our nation’s long-standing imbalances and disparities.
Jobs alone won’t move vulnerable communities towards greater economic security. Income generating activities have to be paired with asset creation – homeownership, stocks, investments and savings. Vulnerable communities also need opportunities for asset building which provide long-term stability, ease economic mobility and provide a cushion in case of job loss or unexpected health crisis. Research shows that children from asset-rich and income-poor families tend to perform better than children from income-rich and asset-poor families.
Lisa Mensah from the Aspen Institute proposes several policy reforms to build assets – universal children’s savings accounts, matched subsidies for retirement savings, refundable tax credit for low-income savers.
Creating jobs and opportunities for asset building have to be accompanied by strengthening basic safety nets: making available unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, generous maternity/paternity benefits, affordable quality child care, tax reform, and greater investments in health and education.
Repairing our safety nets is not simply an act of goodwill or charity -- it is good business. Inequities and disparities hold back women’s economic security globally. Every government must increase allocations for social investment in policies that address disparities in gender as well as between racial groups and classes.
Funding for safety net programs is an investment in our future. To move forward in creating a more just and equitable global economy that works for everyone, reinforcing vital programs and engaging women in asset-building must be central to all of our recovery efforts around the world.
Check out the other blogs participating in Blog for International Women's Day here at Gender Across Borders.