Gender Poverty

Poverty, Gender and Employment Worldwide

Gender and Poverty: Disaggregating Figures

Part of the reluctance to acknowledge that gender is an important factor of poverty is due to the lack of hard statistics to prove it. Nevertheless, a host of studies demonstrate that there are significant differences between men and women with respect to access to assets and to key social indicators.

Social Indicators: Women lag behind Men

The Human Development Index (HDI) figures show big disparities between men and women:

In developing countries, women's literacy levels and years of schooling are much lower than men's. Neglect of women's health and nutrition is so serious in some countries, particularly in Asia, that it outweighs women's natural biological advantage.

A study of seven Latin American countries examined four factors:

  • age,
  • employment category,
  • education and
  • economic sector

which could explain inequalities in income.

Education had the strongest impact on income inequality and poverty: the probability of belonging to the bottom 20 per cent is higher the less educated the individual. But this gives only part of the story. With everything else equal (education, age, economic sector, employment category), working females "have a 34 per cent (probability) of belonging to the bottom (20 per cent), versus 14 per cent for males".

Even among indigenous peoples who suffer from a very poor level of living compared with the non-indigenous population, women tend to be in a worse situation than indigenous men. For instance, in Bolivia, where educational levels of the indigenous population are much lower than for the non-indigenous, the disparity in schooling rates is even greater among indigenous women.

Women are Over-Represented among the Poor

While aggregate estimates of poverty incidence are not broken down by gender, available data point to a common trend: women are disproportionately represented among the poor.

Data from 41 countries, which account for 84 per cent of the total rural population of 114 developing countries, indicate both growing numbers and proportions of women among the rural poor since the mid-1960s:

Between 1965-70 and 1988, the number of rural women living below the poverty line rose more than the number of rural men living below the poverty line (47 per cent for women versus 30 per cent for men). Thus, in 1965-70, women comprised 57 per cent of the rural poor, and by 1988 they accounted for 60 per cent.

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