23 September 2019, Beijing
Colleagues and friends from the State Council, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the All-China Women’s Federation,
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning!
On behalf of the UN in China, I welcome you all to this Conference on Gender Equality and the Future of Work jointly organized by the ILO and UN Women.
This event takes place at a critical moment, for at least three reasons:
Firstly, this year marks the 40 years anniversary of the UN presence in China, 4 decades during which we have been working together with the Government to improve the life of Chinese people and promote gender equality. Since the adoption of the 2030 Development Agenda in 2015, our cooperation is focusing on achieving the SDGs with a strong emphasis on gender equality and women’s empowerment. As we are currently starting the discussions with the Chinese government on the development of our next 5-year cooperation plan for the period 2021-2025, this Conference offers an opportunity to take stock of the achievements and identify new areas of cooperation. In the UN, we are convinced that gender equality is indeed a condition for the realisation of the other 16 SDGs.
Secondly, this year marks also the ILO’s 100 years anniversary, which has been dedicated to the future of work. Last June, the 187 ILO member states, workers and employers organizations have adopted a Centenary Declaration for the future of work, which calls for a transformative agenda on gender equality. In addition, I particularly welcome the adoption by the ILO constituents of a new International Convention aimed at eliminating violence and harassment at the workplace. This is an important contribution to the gender equality agenda, as women represent the overwhelming majority of the victims of harassment and violence at work.
Thirdly, this year, we are also celebrating the 25thanniversary of the Beijing Declaration, which is often considered the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights. On that occasion, it makes sense to look at the progress made on the implementation of the Declaration and its Platform for Action, and scale-up efforts for a bigger impact.
While the work of this Conference will focus on China, let me give you a few statistics illustrating women’s disadvantaged position in the world of work at the global level:
· Over the past 27 years, the gender employment gap has shrunk by less than 2 percentage points only. In 2018, women employment was 26 percentage points less than men.
· Women continue to be under-represented in managerial and leadership positions. Globally 27 percent of managers and leaders are women, and fewer women reach the top.
· Gender wage gap stands at an average of 20 per cent worldwide. Work predominantly done by women continues to be undervalued.
· Women shoulder a disproportionate share of unpaid care work, which continues to be the main reason for them to remain outside the labour force. There is a long way to go to change stereotypes around women as exclusive caregiver, enhance the role of men in caregiving and household duties and implement policy measures and standards at work places to create enabling environments for pregnant women and working mothers to continue working.
· 35 percent of women between 15-49 years of age have experienced physical and/ or sexual violence at the workplace
· And, if no appropriate measures are taken, there are good reasons to believe that technological innovation and the digital revolution could further widen gender gaps, especially as there is stark gender gap in access to the technology by women and girls.
Of course, we have also seen many progress over the past century with women being globally better integrated in labour markets, thereby making tremendous contribution to social and economic development. Female labour force participation in China remains high compared to other countries despite a sharp decline since the 90’s. But gender disparities are persistent when it comes to poverty rates, income security or representation in senior positions.
Looking ahead, it will important for China to ensure that the newly introduced two-child policy plays a supportive role for women to continue engaging in productive labour market and jobs. The world looks up to China for the progress on SDGs, and this is also true for achievement of targets on women’s economic participation under SDG 5.
So more needs to be done in particular to address both direct and indirect discrimination based on sex, overcome gender stereotypes and recognize, reduce and redistribute women’s unpaid care work.
By working together, government, social partners, private sector, civil society and the UN, we can advance a human-centred agenda to the world of work, accelerate efforts on gender equality and ensure that no one is left behind.
This conference is a contribution toward that objective and I wish you constructive debates.