UN Women urges for the transformation of the Latin American and Caribbean economies for the realization of women’s rights

Date: Friday, March 17, 2017

New York City, 17th of March. UN Women published the 2017 Progress Report of Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, in the aegis of the 61st edition of the Commission on the Status of Women, celebrated in New York.

This report highlights that progress is still incomplete and unequal, and in the present scenario of economic contraction and fiscal austerity, there is a risk of slowing down these advances and even suffering setbacks. This report urges for the protection of the reached achievements, to overcome the obstacles presented by the economic context and to keep moving forwards towards the realization of economic women’s rights.

In the last decades, women increased their participation in the labor market and the number of women without access to personal income decreased from 41.7 to 28.9 percent between 2002 and 2014 in the region. In addition, more women graduate from all educative levels than men and there has been progress and innovation in the social protection systems, as well as reduction in fertility.

Women continue to subsidize the regional market economy through domestic work and unpaid care, dedicating up to three more times to domestic work and unpaid care than men.

Moreover, despite the reduction of poverty in the region, and the contribution of female labor participation to this reduction, poverty has become increasingly feminized over the last decade. Between 2002 and 2014, while poverty declined by nearly 16 percentage points, the femininity index of poverty increased by 11 percentage points. This figure refers to the percentage of poor women aged 20-59 years relative to the proportion of poor men in the same age range. By 2014, the percentage of poor women was 18 percent higher than that of men.

Progress has been unequal among women. Migrant, indigenous and afro-descendant women are overrepresented among highly precarious and poorly paid jobs. Indigenous women remain at the bottom of the earnings hierarchy, while less educated women are more vulnerable to patriarchal family dynamics.

The report identifies three different realities defined by structural factors that interact with gender, such as income levels, educational level, age of first pregnancy, ethnicity and race. On one end, women struggling with "sticky floors” are those who have low or primary education and low family incomes. Their labor participation is limited and significantly below men’s.

At the other extreme, there are the women with tertiary education and higher family incomes, but who collide with so-called "glass ceilings" that limit their growth and access to decision-making places and positions. Although they are on a more positive trajectory than the other women, they also move in contexts of labor discrimination and occupational segregation that are manifested in persistent wage gaps and, like women at other levels, in a disproportionate and higher domestic and care workload compared to men.

Between both ends there are the so-called "broken stairs", which include women with secondary education and intermediate incomes. Although in the labor market, the women of this group lack protection networks which would allow them to take a significant leap toward empowerment or help them prevent landslides to "sticky floors."

These challenges are even more complex and difficult to deal with in the current context of economic slowdown, social polarization, distrust of institutions and, in some cases, political crises, as well as external factors such as falling commodity prices, increasing protectionist tendencies, uncertainty regarding the evolution of the flow of remittances and possible changes in migration policies.

“The challenges should not discourage us from our common aspiration: to keep moving forward towards the economic empowerment of women. The routes for the economic empowerment of women are different, and so should the solutions”, remarked Luiza Carvalho, Regional Director of UN Women for the Americas and the Caribbean.

The 2017 Progress Report identifies six strategies to address the challenges ahead in the region, to prevent setbacks and overcome the obstacles, promoting women’s economic empowerment:

• Recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work
• Establish universal and gender-responsive social protection systems
• Create more and better jobs, and transform labor markets for women’s rights
• Promote egalitarian family relationships that recognize the diversity of households, and the rights and obligations of their members
• Create the conditions for women to fully enjoy their sexual and reproductive rights
• Contain the adverse effects of the current economic shutdown on gender equality (for instance, by avoiding hyper-restrictive policy and by incorporating a gender perspective)

The report’s launch was attended by Brazil’s Permanent Representative in UN, Ambassador Mauro Vieira; Colombia’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Maria Emma Mejia; UNDP Regional Director in the Americas and the Caribbean, Jessica Faieta; the indigenous and feminist leader Otilia Lux de Coti, and the Spanish sociologist and academic, Angeles Duran Heres.

• For more information on the 2017 Progress Report of Women in Latin America and the Caribbean: http://lac.unwomen.org/en/digiteca/publicaciones/2016/12/el-progreso-de-las-mujeres-america-latina-y-el-caribe-2017

Media Inquiries
Sharon Grobeisen, +1 646 781-4753, sharon.grobeisen[at]unwomen.org
Miguel Trancozo, +507 305-4675, miguel.trancozo[at]unwomen.org