Photo: Christopher Herwig

Economic empowerment

Across the world, women shoulder the majority of unpaid household and care work. They are less likely than men to hold paid jobs. When they do, this is often in low-paid, vulnerable conditions. As a result, many women live in striking poverty. Their lack of economic empowerment is a major barrier to equality, as it prevents women from entering politics, escaping abuse and influencing decisions that impact them.

Women’s economic situation today

In almost all countries around the world, women are at a severe economic disadvantage to men. This is despite the fact that two thirds of the world’s work is done by women.

Much of this work is unpaid work at home. On average, women spend 1-3 hours more than men each day on housework. They spend up to 10 times as much time taking care of children and elderly relatives.

Because of this unpaid burden, many women simply do not have the option to work outside the home. The current share of the global male population holding a paid job is 71% – compared to 46% of women.

When women do enter the labour market, they are often paid less, valued less and left with little protection from discrimination, harassment and abuse. Globally, women on average earn only 60-75% of men’s wages. They are less likely to be represented by unions and more likely to hold informal jobs. In old age, women often get lower pension benefits than their male colleagues.

Unequal laws and institutions make matters even worse. In some places, for example, women are not allowed to own land or inherit property.

As a result, many women across the world are economically dependent on others and live in poverty.

What is economic empowerment?

When we talk about women’s economic empowerment, we talk about increasing women’s economic rights and opportunities to:

  • find decent, safe work that respects the environment and supports solidarity;
  • have guaranteed access to and control over capital, land and resources
  • get recognition for their unpaid care work and share that burden with others

Women's economic situation today

of the world's work is done by women, reports the World Bank
of countries have laws reducing women's economic opportunities
0in 4
EU women are unable to work because of care or family responsibilities

Why women’s economic empowerment is important

Empowering women economically has a direct effect on equality. It increases women’s power and agency, giving them the freedom to decide over their own lives, bodies and futures.

It also affects women’s political participation and influence in society. When women no longer struggle to meet basic needs, it is easier for them to get involved in civil society, enter politics and address strategic issues.

Economic empowerment can also make it easier for women to escape gender-based violence. Leaving an abusive relationship is much more complicated for a woman who is economically dependent on her partner.

When mothers manage to support themselves, this benefits their children too. Research has shown that when women have greater control over household resources, spending patterns change in ways that benefit children.

Finally, women’s labour market participation can have broad economic advantages. The more women work, the faster economies grow. And when companies have a higher number of women in senior management, organisational effectiveness is shown to increase.

"The organisation gave me a sense of strength. Now, I’m able to defend my own rights and those of others."

– Lule Fila, a Roma activist, found a steady job through the activities of Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation NRAEWOK in Kosovo.

Photo: Driton Paqarada.

How we empower women economically

Together with our partner organisations, we work for women’s economic empowerment and rights in more than 20 conflict-affected countries. Our economic empowerment work feeds into our other efforts on peace and security, gender-based violence and political participation. By working in all four areas, we are able to create synergies and reinforce results.

To prepare women for the labour market, our partners inform women about their rights, support them in getting an education and provide leadership training.

Our partners also make it easier for women to work outside the home by lobbying for structural change such as child care and tax reform. Traditional beliefs and social norms are challenged, including the idea that women should stay at home and that childcare is their responsibility alone.

To support women who already have a job, our partners advocate for equal pay for equal work, better working conditions and equal opportunities for advancement and promotion.

Finally, they call on governments to change discriminatory laws that worsen women’s economic situation.

Our work for economic empowerment