Women getting smaller slice of the economic pie

A recent Oxfam report highlights the vast and ever-growing gap between rich and poor, and how power and privilege are being used to skew the economic system. MBALI ZWANE takes a closer look at how the inequality highlighted in the report disproportionately affects women.

Women make up the majority of the world’s low-paid workers and are concentrated in the most tenuous jobs. They get a far smaller slice of the economic pie that men do, since the highest incomes are reserved almost exclusively for men – 445 of the 500 richest people in the world are men.


The report notes that countries with higher income inequality also tend to have larger gaps between women and men in terms of health, education, labour market participation and representation in institutions like parliament. Women, in particular, are disadvantaged as they are underrepresented in positions of leadership, yet dominate in low-paid sectors, the informal economy and unrecognised unpaid work.

The report says that countries that have seen the most significant long-term increases in economic inequalities have also experienced slower than average reductions in gender inequalities.

Growing economic inequality exacerbates existing inequalities between social groups, particularly gender inequality, according to Oxfam. The gender pay gap, where women earn less than men for doing the same jobs, is higher in more unequal societies and this is intensified by occupational segregation, unpaid care and domestic responsibilities. On average, women spend nearly 2.5 times more time on unpaid work, such as childcare and domestic chores, than men each day.

These additional, unacknowledged responsibilities restrict women’s chances of climbing the leadership ladder in professional or technical jobs.

A snapshot of gender inequality
• Women in developing countries are 20% less likely than men to have a formal bank account
• They are 17% less likely to have borrowed money from a formal institution in the last year.
• Women find it harder than men to find decent work, with 84.3% of women in sub-Saharan Africa in vulnerable employment (including unpaid family work) compared to 70.1% of men.
• In many developing regions, 75% of women’s employment is informal.

The normalisation of paying women lower wages has been cited as a key factor in increasing profitability. Paying women less has a cumulative effect over their lifetime, leading to overall insecurity, including lower savings or pensions available later in life.

Oxfam suggests the promotion of women’s economic equality and women’s rights through:
– Compensation for unpaid care
– Ending the gender pay gap by using the same salary scale for men and women
– Promoting equal inheritance and land rights for women

The report says that increasing income inequality poses a risk to the willingness of a society to cooperate with each other in order to survive and prosper, which threatens to slow down economic recovery.

The Daily Vox, in partnership with Oxfam South Africa, will be highlighting the challenges of socio-economic inequality in a special project this month.

Featured image via Pixabay