Thematic areas

Flagship Thematic Area: Gender

Leveraging social protection to promote gender equality


  • Women still experience significantly lower social protection coverage than men, a discrepancy that largely reflects and reproduces their lower labour force participation rates, higher levels of part-time and temporary work and of informal employment, gender pay gaps and a disproportionately high share of unpaid care work, which national social protection strategies often fail to recognize.
  • These outcomes are associated with persistent patterns of inequality, discrimination and structural disadvantage for women. Furthermore, women with children are at an even greater disadvantage and face a triple motherhood penalty: compared with both men and women without children they are less likely to be employed, they earn lower wages (whereas fathers are likely to earn higher wages than men without children) and they are less likely to work in managerial or leadership positions.
  •  In the COVID-19 crisis, women have been affected by employment loss more than men and more women than men are leaving the workforce, perhaps as a result of intensified unpaid workloads. Some of the gains made in gender equality over recent decades are therefore being reversed. 

Approach and Technical Support

The ILO approach is focused on breaking the cycle of gender inequalities that trap women in informal, low-paid jobs without any social protection, both during their working lives and in old age. This requires removing barriers to both accessing the labour market and social protection schemes. Depending on their design, social protection systems can increase, perpetuate or reduce gender inequalities. It is therefore important to ensure that gender-responsiveness is mainstreamed into all social protection technical advisory services.

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Veronika Wodsak
Social Protection Policy Specialist
family benefits , women , maternity , gender , children Gender equality