Women's economic rights | ActionAid UK

Women's economic rights

Too often, economic policies and employment practices undermine women’s rights, exploiting gender inequality in wider society.

Why we work on women’s economic rights

Women are economically unequal to men by virtually every measure. Women are over-represented in precarious, informal and part-time work and are paid significantly less than men, simply because they are women. The gender pay gap continues to exist in every country in the world. As long as women’s economic empowerment lags behind men, gender equality will not be achieved. 

Women also undertake the vast majority of care work in the home – looking after children, the elderly and the sick, fetching water and firewood, cleaning, cooking and washing clothes – all of which deprive them of time and energy to pursue paid work and participate in decision-making. However, despite making such a vast contribution to our societies and economies, this care work is largely unrecognised, undervalued and uncounted.

While the situation is unfair and unacceptable for women everywhere, it is poor women in developing countries who bear the biggest costs, and who are constantly pushed to the bottom of the economic pile.

What’s our position on economic inequality?

ActionAid is calling on governments, businesses and international institutions to create the necessary conditions to end this pervasive economic inequality and fulfill women’s economic rights. This means ensuring that all women can enjoy their right to decent work and that their unpaid care work is recognised, reduced and redistributed, including between households and the state.

Read our latest reports:

Read our latest reports:

How the IMF's tax policies are failing women


How the IMF’s tax policies are failing women

Towards gender-just trade

From rhetoric to rights

Towards a gender-just approach to trade

Stitching a better future

Stitching a better future

Is Vietnam’s boom in garment manufacturing good for women?


See all ActionAid’s policy reports

What are our findings on economic inequality?

SewingWomen in developing countries lose out on US$9 trillion a year due to unequal wages and the fact that women have less access than men to paid jobs.

Mother holding sonWomen work four more years than men, in their lifetimes, due to their disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care.

Gender equalityIn poor countries, women in precarious forms of work are more likely to experience intimate partner violence than those in secure work.


Our recommendations on women’s economic empowerment

  1. Governments and corporate actors should guarantee women’s access to and enjoyment of decent work opportunities.
  2. Recognise, reduce and redistribute unpaid care responsibilities that fall disproportionately on women.
  3. Ensure that economic policies work for women, not against them, and end the pursuit of growth at any cost.

Progress on women’s economic empowerment

UN recognised effects of macro-economic policy on women’s economic empowerment

In 2016 ActionAid and others successfully argued for the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel to recognise the effects of macro-economic policy on women’s economic empowerment, something it had failed to do up to that point. The final report of the panel in 2017 will reflect these issues.

Influenced recognition of importance of gender equality in delivering inclusive growth

Pressure from civil society organisations, including ActionAid, has helped shift the priorities of the International Monetary Fund to recognise the criticality of gender equality in delivering inclusive and sustainable growth.


Page updated 15 May 2019