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New UN report says rural women face increasing inequality

Baku, January 21 (AZERTAC). A new United Nations interagency report on the gender dimension of agricultural work says women still benefit less than men from rural employment and face new challenges due to the current economic and food crises.

The report — "Gender dimensions of agricultural and rural employment: Differentiated pathways out of poverty" — says that "although gender inequality varies considerably across regions and sectors, there is evidence that, globally, women benefit less from rural employment, whether in self- or wage-employment, than men do".

At the same time, the report says that besides other challenges regarding gender disparities in rural employment, "the recent financial and food crises have slowed down progress towards greater gender equity" and decent work for women in agricultural and rural areas over the past few years.

"With job losses and cuts in spending on social services and infrastructure, women's care burdens and unpaid work have intensified, and their financial contribution to household food security is likely to decrease," the report says. "This is particularly dramatic for female-headed households".

The report also cites migration and the feminization of rural activities, international trade and the diversification of the rural economy, and child labor as other issues and trends affecting women employed in agricultural work.

The report by FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) brings together the latest thinking on the gender dimension of rural and agricultural work and seeks to promote the debate about the importance of women for rural economic growth and poverty reduction.

The report says some of the factors that may push women into a disadvantaged economic position are: employment (occupation and task), segmentation (women are disproportionately employed in low-quality jobs), the gender gap in earnings, and fewer hours of paid work but overall larger work burdens.

As an example, the report says "it is interesting to observe that 90 percent of the wage gap between men and women in developed or developing counties is unexplained: in other words, it is attributed to gender discrimination".

The report shows that women face discrimination that limits both their economic productivity and their personal development. Women need access to education, training, credit, markets, technical assistance and labour protection. They need equal, secure access to land and other assets. And they need ‘social capital', including the ability to participate equally with men in farmers' organizations.

With these advantages (long available to men), women can increase their contribution to national development and poverty reduction. Seventy per cent of the developing world's 1.4 billion extremely poor people live in rural areas, so raising rural women's economic participation is crucial to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

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