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Applying a gender analysis

By Ollivier Girard/CIFOR, under a CC LicenseThe International Labour Organisation (ILO) recommendation on social protection floors sets a global framework for social protection aimed at alleviating poverty, inequality, vulnerability and social exclusion. Social protection floors are nationally defined sets of basic social security guarantees across a life cycle that include universal access to essential healthcare, basic income security through cash or in kind transfers and quality basic services. Social protection programmes should apply the principles of non-discrimination and gender equality in their design and implementation. Yet in order to do so, the notion of social protection in the context of women’s multiple responsibilities as care providers, paid and unpaid workers must be revisited.

The development of social security systems in the 20th century is premised on the dominant male breadwinner model as evident in the ILO Convention on social security from 1952. Women can access social security only if they are directly employed, or benefit from men’s social security as their dependent. Underlying this assumption is that women are primarily responsible for unpaid care and domestic work in the home and men are the breadwinners employed in the formal sector. As unpaid care providers women do not have a right to social security. Second, with the persistent growth of the informal sector, fewer workers make contributions to social insurance schemes to cover their parental leave and protect them against unemployment, ill-health, and disability. Social protection programmes must consider women’s generally lower labour participation rates, more frequent breaks in employment due to childcare and elder care needs, higher prevalence of part-time and informal work due to their care responsibilities and lower earnings due to discrimination within the labour market. As women are disproportionately represented amongst low paid formal and informal workers they are less able to participate in contributory social insurance schemes. Therefore, social assistance through cash or in-kind transfers and public employment programmes become an important component of any social protection floor that aims to enable women’s economic empowerment.

Social protection programmes that use a gender and care sensitive perspective have the potential to go further than fulfilling women’s and girls’ practical needs and instead catalyse a change in power relations. The collection of resources included here provide an analysis of how to design social protection policies so that they can contribute towards women’s economic empowerment. A common recommendation across these different resources is the need to increase coverage and strengthen systems towards universal rights-based social protection programmes so as to avoid the gender discrimination and exclusion that are inevitable through means-tested programmes. Resources in other sections within this guide also highlight examples of social protection programmes targeted at specific groups of women to promote their economic empowerment. Targeted and means-tested social protection programmes can also be improved to integrate a gender and care sensitive perspective. However, they do not replace the need for universal social protection programmes. Further resources are also available on the ILO Social Protection Platform and on the UN Social Protection and Human Rights website.

Recommended reading

Social Protection Floors and gender equality: a brief overview
L. Tessier; M. S. Plaza; C Behrendt / International Labour Organization 2013
This paper examines some of the linkages between gender inequality and social protection, recognising that effective and equitable access to social protection is a key tool for reducing poverty and inequality. The paper identifies var...
Engendering social security and protection: challenges for making social security and protection gender equitable
S. Razavi / Friedrich Ebert Stiftung 2011
The on-going negative impacts of the 2007/2008 global economic crisis has underlined the need for, and the role of social protection. Noting that countries have responded to the economic crisis in different ways, the paper identifies ...
Towards gender equality with care-sensitive social protection
D. Chopra / Institute of Development Studies UK 2014
This policy briefing argues that unpaid care work and social protection are intrinsically linked. Women and girls' uptake of social protection provisions is affected by their unpaid care work responsibilities. Conversely these essenti...
Social protection in Asia: research findings and policy lessons
N. Kabeer; S. Cook; D. Chopra / Institute of Development Studies UK 2010
This is a synthesis report from the Social Protection in Asia (SPA) policy-research and network- building programme, 2007-2010, funded by the Ford Foundation and IDRC. It presents research findings and draws out policy lessons from th...
Transformative social protection programming for children and their carers: a gender perspective
R. Sabates-Wheeler; K. Roelen / Gender and Development 2011
In recent years, social protection has gained substantial attention as a long-term development measure for its potential to address poverty and other forms of vulnerability. Despite this growing popularity, social protection is also b...
The gender dimensions of pension systems: policies and constraints for the protection of older women
C. Arza / UN Women 2015
This paper examines the challenges and constraints that pension systems face to be gender equitable and the policy alternatives to address these challenges. It also focuses on pension system rules and how they interact with other soci...
How can social protection provide social justice for women?
H. Sholkamy / Pathways of Women's Empowerment RPC 2011
For social protection to provide social justice for women, this Pathways policy paper argues that the approach must be feminist. A feminist social protection programme recognises and enhances women’s identity as citizens and ena...