Thursday, July 1, 2010
Jobs Pact Spotlights Women's Role in Economic Recovery
On Tuesday, the ILO, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), hosted a panel discussion and roundtable meeting, "The Global Jobs Pact: Crisis Recovery Through Women's Economic Empowerment," that coincided with the United Nations' 2010 Annual Ministerial Review.
The 2010 Review, part of the Economic and Social Council's (ECOSOC) High-Level Segment, focuses on "implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to gender equality and the empowerment of women", as stated by ECOSOC.
The Global Jobs Pact is an initiative directly aimed at combating gender inequality in employment. In June 2009, as a response to the international financial and economic crisis, the ILO adopted the Pact as a measure to stimulate economic recovery, protect workers, and generate employment. Within the stated objectives, though, the Global Jobs Pact has had a more specific goal: to promote and support the role of women in the workplace.
"The current crisis should be viewed as an opportunity to shape new gender equality policy responses," the Pact states. "Recovery packages during economic crises need to take into account the impact on women and men and integrate gender concerns in all measures. In discussions on recovery packages, both regarding their design and assessing their success, women must have an equal voice with men."
Moushira Khattab, Egypt's minister of state for Family and Population, attended the ILO/UNDP meeting. She told IPS, "States are under obligation to fulfill the rights of each and every individual without discrimination. And to ensure the rights means having to deal with the obstacles hampering access - this will necessarily make the states focus on the gender issue, on women."
"Women are half of the society," she added. "It's not charity, it's a legal obligation from the state and private sector."
Khattab stressed the importance of gender equality as not only a matter of ethics but of economics. "It's really important to look at the issue of women empowerment as a tool to address the impact of the financial and economic crisis," she told IPS. "We're not just reacting to the crisis, but creating a roadmap for sustainable development."
Members of the panel and meeting attendees came together to discuss the impact of the Global Jobs Pact and what issues need to be addressed to promote future development. The Pact provides crisis-response measures that can be adapted to individual countries' needs; it is not a "one-size-fits-all" solution.
Drawing on a variety of backgrounds, attendees offered suggestions culled from experiences around the globe, from the effectiveness of Australian stimulus packages to Israeli economic policies. The diversity of experimental measures being tested worldwide has provided a wide range of successes and failures.
Ronnie Goldberg, the executive vice president and senior policy officer of the United States Council for International Business, told the meeting attendees, "The Global Jobs Pact is not a panacea. Its major utility is highlighting the interconnections and diversity of situations and remedies" being implemented by the international community.
In fact, governments in several countries are considering the utility of a National Jobs Pact, modeled after the Global Jobs Pact. Indonesia, South Africa, and El Salvador are a few of the nations that have expressed interest in adopting this measure.
Rania Antonopoulos, director of the Gender Equality and the Economy programme at the Levy Institute, mentioned India's Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), a policy that guarantees 100 days of work every year to at least one adult member of every rural household at a minimum wage. The Act has been highly praised by the U.N.
"It's based on the idea that work is empowering," said Antonopolous. "The policy need not be used only in times of crisis."
In addition to the successes of the Global Jobs Pact, panelists and attendees discussed challenges that need to be addressed in order to move forward.
Khattab told IPS, "The public-private partnership and corporate social responsibility are assumptions that we have to start from. To do this, we have to have more cooperation at the national and international levels. We have to have a legal framework that ensures the rights are implemented. We have to allocate resources - to focus on education, education of children, capacity-building of women responsive to labour market needs, and invest in the human infrastructure."
"Empowerment of women is a very effective economic tool to deal with the impact of the crisis," she told IPS. "It's also a human right."
Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.