“There are considerable differences in women’s and men’s access to and opportunities to exert power over economic structures in their societies. In most parts of the world, women are virtually absent from or are poorly represented in economic decision-making, including the formulation of financial, monetary, commercial and other economic policies, as well as tax systems and rules governing pay. Since it is often within the framework of such policies that individual men and women make their decisions, inter alia, on how to divide their time between remunerated and unremunerated work, the actual development of these economic resources, their economic power and consequently the extent of equality between them at the individual and family levels as well as in society as a whole.” (para 150, p 65, BPFA)
The globalisation of economies continues to exacerbate inequalities between women and men in employment opportunities, wages and occupational categories. Women continue to be pushed into the formal sector of the economy and excluded from social security protection. Secure land rights are a key factor in the economic empowerment of women. Existing traditional and cultural stereotypes deny women the right to own and inherit land and property.
In the Beijing + 10 year review it was noted that in the ten years that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) have existed side by side, the institutional arrangements of the former have persistently undermined the inter-governmental commitments of the latter. WTO global economic policy is generally geared towards fiscal constraint, trade and financial liberalization. Its regulatory institutions are universalizing property rights. These processes lack sensitivity to social outcomes which constitute women’s equity, equality and empowerment.
There were noted gains; Gender budgeting has been institutionalised in some countries and is proving to be a vehicle for the accounting of social goals in at least one aspect of national economic planning. In addition, governmental and inter-governmental efforts are linking women entrepreneurs with opportunities opened up by liberalisation and in some countries sex-disaggregated data is more widely available.
However, on the part of national women’s machineries and women’s NGOs and mass organisations, there was noted a lack of political and technical skills to critically engage with macroeconomic issues from a gender perspective.
Fiscal constraints and binding global free trade agreements that promote privatisation erode the capacity of many governments to protect social reproduction and economic development particularly the commitments made to food security and sustainable women’s incomes and livelihoods – exacerbated by the debt repayment burden.
Growing concern was shown to the deepening of global economic integration through regulatory frameworks and modalities being integrated into the WTO, financial institutions, OECD and regional free trade agreements are moving governments farther away from economic commitments made to women in the BPFA.
The promotion of GATS Mode 4 (Movement of Natural Persons) as a leveller of opportunities for developing countries in a globally integrated world is a threat to the human rights of migrants and to migrant women workers.
The increased trans-border activities of trans-national corporations create a trail of social and environmental costs and disasters for which they remain unaccountable.