Economic recommendations from the gender equality advisory council for Canada's G7 presidency


Women’s economic empowerment is a pre-requisite for inclusive and equitable economic growth. A powerful lever for change, women’s economic empowerment can drive gender equality outcomes and broader intergenerational benefits for women, their children, households and communities.

Evidence tells us that women who are economically empowered have greater access to income and economic assets, better control over their own economic gains and more equitable decision-making power to translate these gains into social, economic, and health benefits for themselves and their families.

However, girls and women face differential barriers because of the ways that poverty and inequality are deeply inter-twined. This interconnection is evident across multiple levels in terms of: how women in low-income households experience poverty; the way that power is brokered in communities; the entrenched biases in systems and structures that can exclude and harm women (e.g. economic, agricultural, financial, or market systems).

We know that economic growth does not always ‘lift all boats’: We know that as low-income countries make strides towards greater productivity, girls and women living in poverty do not always benefit from the rising tide of human and economic development. Economies are not automatically inclusive, beneficial or equitable. When left unchecked, the market forces driving economic growth will not necessarily expand decent economic opportunities for women. We need deliberate tactics to ensure women are not left behind.

Economic losses are not distributed gender equitably: When poor households must adjust to micro economic shocks or periods of economic fragility, it is girls and women who disproportionately absorb the consequences in ways that have far-reaching effects on their lives and futures. Evidence shows that macro-economic policies and austerity measures have a gender-differential negative impact on the health and well-being of girls and women. Girls and women often suffer first, worst and recover last from micro and macro-economic shocks, and have less support to build resilience, smooth household consumption, or buffer against risks.

Women face multiple barriers to participating equitably in economies: Around the world, and especially in developing countries including Indigenous communities, women face barriers that limit their beneficial participation in the economy, including access to income-earning opportunities, constraints to owning productive assets or to selling goods at markets, and limited usage of financial services like mobile bank accounts and payment systems that would support women to control economic resources directly. As a result, millions of the poorest girls and women are left behind when it comes to enjoying decent working conditions, earning a fair income, experiencing the gains of greater prosperity, having a voice in family, workplace and community, and shaping the course of their own lives.

We need to tackle gender and economic inequality together by reshaping our economies so that they work for, and include, women. These inequalities intersect with other inequalities such as age, race and the discrimination faced by Indigenous peoples. Interventions miss the mark when they ignore the vast heterogeneity among women. Wealth of the richest that is spiraling at the top of the economy is linked to the poverty and marginalization faced by women at the base of the economic pyramid in the most precarious, unsafe and exploitative jobs.

I. Inclusive and equitable

We recognize that to advance gender equality in society, the barriers to girls and women’s economic opportunity must be addressed. Both the symptoms, and the structural drivers of poverty and inequality must be tackled for economies to be inclusive and for girls and women to stand a chance at living healthy, productive lives to their fullest potential. Vocational or business skills alone are insufficient: it is critical to recognize and address the barriers that constrain and distort the economic opportunities available to women. The unequal distribution of unpaid care work remains one of the persistent barriers to women’s economic advancement across the world. Sexual and reproductive health rights, including access to family planning, are a fundamental enabler of women’s economic empowerment.

Women face barriers to accessing productive and economic resources because of the entrenched biases in structures and systems, such as financial, market, agricultural and legal systems. For example, women engage with formal financial institutions less and represent more of the world’s unbanked population. Female entrepreneurs face unique barriers to securing capital or resources, often relegating them to smaller, home-based enterprises in low-growth sectors. Discrimination in law or policy can make it harder for women to own land or property, sign a contract, open a bank account or formally register a business.

For economies to be inclusive and equitable, it is not just the objective dimensions of economic empowerment that matter, such as asset ownership or income. Agency (the capacity to make decisions and take purposeful action) is essential and does not necessarily follow on from increases in income or assets alone. One in three married women in developing countries does not have a say in household spending. It is critical to ensure that women have the self-reliance to take economic risks, define their economic future, and have sufficient bargaining power in the household and in the workplace.

We recognize that inclusive and equitable economic growth that benefits girls and women goes hand in hand with gender equality, and requires clear action and commitments to:

  1. Integrate gender-based analysis, gender-responsive budgeting and gender auditing in policy development and implementation

  2. Increase women’s financial inclusion

  3. Recognize, Reduce and Re-distribute Unpaid care and domestic work

  4. Adopt a feminist approach to international development assistance and blended finance

Gender-based analysis, gender-responsive budgeting and gender-auditing

Fiscal policy tools can have a tremendous impact on gender equality. Implementing commitments towards gender equality requires technical capacity and intentional measures to incorporate a gender perspective in planning and budgeting framework, and in policy and program development. Government expenditure and taxation are not gender-neutral; for instance, the services capable of improving the lives of girls and women are often under-funded. It is essential that action is taken to raise adequate revenue through tax systems in which everyone pays their fair share, and evasion and avoidance are eliminated. By combining gender-responsive budgeting and a gender-responsive public financial management framework, governments can direct finance to improve the lives of girls and women. Gender-responsive budgeting demonstrates authentic leadership in gender equality. We call on the G7 to:

  1. Integrate gender-based analysis, gender-responsive budgeting and gender-auditing throughout policy development and implementation.

    1. Make gender analysis mandatory to the budget cycle by adopting permanent, participatory and transparent approaches to gender analysis and budgeting, introducing legislation to enshrine it in government’s’ budgetary and financial management processes, from budget preparation to auditing, including both taxation and expenditure. Report on progress via Sustainable Development Goal 5.c and related internationally agreed indicator, 5.c.1.

    2. Conduct gender impact assessments of all tax and expenditure policies and modify any that are not gender-equitable. These impact assessments should include impacts on women across different social groups: for instance, by income, ethnicity/race, and location, with attention to the most disadvantaged girls and women.

    3. Prioritize financing at home and abroad that addresses the structural barriers to gender equality. Such structural barriers include inequalities in the care economy, access to infrastructure and decent work opportunities, and access to credit and financing, which limit women’s economic participation and empowerment.

    4. Call for the immediate creation of a global mechanism dedicated to providing short and long-term technical assistance on gender budgeting and gender-responsive policy; and commit to providing resources for the mechanism. This global mechanism should be integrated into existing structures at UN Women, the IMF, World Bank and OECD.

    5. Include as a regular part of budget and policy development, a feminist-informed gender analysis of men and masculinities and pay attention to marginalized groups of boys and men, including racialized and ethnic minorities, Indigenous, LGBTQI2 and gender diverse, economically-marginalized, members of religious minorities, and those boys and men facing physical or mental challenges.

Financial Inclusion

Access and use of financial products and services is an essential part of inclusive economic growth, poverty reduction, and women’s economic empowerment. Providing low-income women with the right financial tools to save and borrow money, make and receive payments and manage risk is important for women’s empowerment, but also for poverty reduction.

Access to financial products and services enables women to save, invest in education, start businesses, manage risk and mitigate the impact of financial shocks. Women’s financial inclusion can also stimulate increases in women’s labor force participation. However, in many countries women remain underserved by financial services and face barriers to accessing and using appropriate financial products and services.

Although meaningful gains have been made towards greater financial inclusion across the globe, a gender gap in bank account ownership persists: women are not making gains relative to men, especially in low and middle-income economies. Globally, 65 percent of women have banked, compared with 72 percent of men, a gender gap of 7 percentage points. In developing economies, the gender gap remains unchanged at 9 percentage points. Digital financial services (DFS) offer innovative platforms to address this gender gap in financial exclusion, and digital payments have emerged as a promising tool for and entry point to expand women’s digital account ownership. Recognizing the importance of ensuring women have increased access to and use of digital financial services, provided this is supported by appropriate consumer protection regulation, so that they can make their own decisions about spending, saving money, and building their financial future, we call on the G7 to:

  1. Increase women’s financial inclusion, supported by adequate financial regulations and commit to closing the financial inclusion gender gap in account ownership by taking the following actions.

    1. Digitize Government-to-People social protection welfare transfer payments to women. Ensure funds are directed into mobile bank accounts held by women, and design payment systems and social protection programs to meet the needs of women.

    2. Accelerate closure of the DFS gender gap through Government-to-People (G2P) payments, including by digitizing wage payments in sectors that disproportionately serve women. In the developing world, approximately 100 Million unbanked women receive wage payments in cash, making this an opportunity to expand women’s financial inclusion.

    3. Ensure that consumer protections are put in place that safeguard women’s financial interests and future, through effective regulation of financial products and financial markets.

    4. Take into account the importance of women migrants’ remittances by improving formal remittance transfer methods and reducing transfer costs within both the countries of origin and destination.

    5. Call for scaled up national efforts to collect and publicly report sex-disaggregated data on women’s access and use of financial products and services, so that all stakeholders have a clear picture of the gender gap in financial inclusion, and endorse the Findex which measures the gender gap in financial inclusion as an essential contributor.

    6. Work with the private sector to increase capital to women-owned or led supply chain entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs with significant percentage of women in their workforces or supply chains that provide quality jobs and pathways to economic advancement, through innovative financing vehicles, bringing together DFI and private capital.

Recognize, Reduce and Redistribute unpaid domestic and care work

Unpaid domestic and care work (UCW)—which includes domestic work and direct care of other persons—has enormous but largely unrecognized value: it is estimated to be worth $10 trillion, equivalent to nearly 13% of GDP, globally. In every part of the world, especially in developing countries, women do a disproportionate amount of UCW: women do three times as much UCW as men and, nearly seven extra years over the course of a lifetime. The disproportionate amount of UCW that girls and women bear is a critical constraint to women’s economic empowerment, equal pay, and ultimately a nation’s economic growth. It limits girls’ and women’s preparation for, and participation in school, the workforce, her pay, her career progress, and influences the power and agency women can exercise at home and beyond. Accessible child and elder care and investment in the care economy are a universal issue, and a precondition for women’s economic empowerment. We call on the G7 to:

  1. Recognize unpaid domestic and care work through improved data collection and use of data in policy making.

    1. Ensure regular time use surveys to reveal the extent of unpaid domestic and care work carried out by different groups of girls and women, boys and men, disaggregated by factors such as income, ethnicity/race and location, with attention to the most disadvantaged girls and women.

    2. Ensure that this data is used in design of policies so that unpaid domestic and care work is not inadvertently increased by expenditure cuts, and so that the design of social protection systems reveal the unpaid contribution that girls and women make to economies and societies.

  2. Reduce unpaid domestic and care work by investing in the development of culturally appropriate, accessible, affordable, gender-responsive time and energy-saving infrastructure, technology and housing.

    1. Develop and maintain water and sanitation infrastructure, energy and transport infrastructure.

    2. Support development of labor saving devices, especially those that can reduce the drudgery of low income women; and investment in affordable housing.

  3. Redistribute unpaid domestic and care services between families and the public sector and between girls and women and boys and men by investing in culturally appropriate, accessible, high quality care services, and gender-equitable social protection systems.

    1. Invest in universal publicly financed early childhood education and care services, and care for elderly people; and ensure that businesses and not-for-profit organizations offering care services are well-regulated.

    2. Ensure that high-quality childcare is universally available and affordable for all preschoolers.

    3. Ensure decent wages and working conditions for paid care providers, which must include ratifying ILO Convention 189 on the protection of paid domestic workers.

    4. Social protection systems should accelerate institutional support enabling both men and women caregivers to balance paid and unpaid work on a gender-equal basis.

  4. Institute or improve paid parental leave programs to support all eligible families to take leave when children are young.

    1. Set a goal of men doing fifty percent of unpaid domestic and care work within a generation and institute non-transferable parental leave and public education efforts to achieve this goal.

    2. Provide flexibility in the timing of paid parental leave programs, and cover a broad range of parents, including self-employed, marginally employed, part-time and same-sex partners

    3. Encourage the private sector and public sector employers to institute policies and programs to encourage male employees to take parental leave and pursue opportunities for greater work-life balance.

Feminist Approach to International Assistance

A feminist approach to development assistance has the power to transform societies. By embracing a feminist approach to aid, the G7 can tackle unequal gendered power relations as a core strategy to bring about transformational change. Ultimately, a feminist approach must challenge systemic inequality, unjust power systems, discriminatory laws, policies and programs – at local, national, regional and global levels. A feminist approach to development assistance prioritizes women’s rights and gender equality in policy, programming and partnerships; it emphasizes learning, collaboration, participation, inclusivity, and responsiveness in its processes and partnerships; and recognizes the central role women’s rights organizations play in catalyzing change towards gender equality.

Governments are increasingly looking towards private-public partnerships- or blended finance – for international assistance. While blended finance can contribute towards achieving the SDGs, it is imperative that donor countries do not see blended finance as a replacement for ODA. Donors must also ensure that the same principles and frameworks that they have signed to ensure the quality of traditional ODA are applied to blended finance. So far, there is very little evidence of the impact of private financing on sustainable development outcomes, and some models of financing risk increasing inequality or vulnerability. If blended finance leads to public services being privatized, this can increase inequalities in accessing these services. The most effective way to support inclusive growth and reduce gender inequality is public investment in public services such as health and education. We call on the G7 to:

  1. Adopt a feminist approach to development assistance and measurably increase resources for its implementation

  2. Donors should commit to spending 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on ODA and put in place plans to reach these targets and support domestic resource mobilization to ensure public investment in public services such as health and education.

    1. Adhere to sustainable development and development effectiveness principles to ensure private finance blending supports sustainable development and gender equality.

  3. Adopt a feminist approach to international assistance by making gender equality a standalone objective and mainstream it throughout all development assistance policies and programs.

    1. Apply a feminist approach to research, partnership, monitoring and evaluation and invest in increased gender equality and women’s rights capacity of staff. A feminist approach to international assistance focuses on the transformational aspect of mainstreaming ensuring programs address power imbalances and structural barriers.

  4. Measurably increase investment for gender equality and track spending and impact on gender equality.

    1. Ensure that 20 percent of all aid investments have as their principal focus advancing women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality and 100 percent of aid investments include at least a secondary objective of advancing gender equality. Dedicate increased resources to women’s rights organizations and movements, which are long-term, predictable and provides core support. Adopt meaningful indicators that measure transformational change and adopt the OECD-DAC gender equality marker to screen to ODA.

  5. Invest in universal gender-sensitive social protection systems that lift women out of poverty and support all women in dealing with risks over the life course.

    1. Ensure that women in the informal economy enjoy social protection. Re-commit to delivering a universal social protection floor, in line with ILO Convention 102 and ILO Recommendation 202, to ensure the most marginalized have a safety net and strengthen resilience to respond to shocks in the economy, support basic consumption, and graduation from poverty.

  6. Prioritize private finance investments that address structural inequality and promote gender equality

    1. Commit to investing in technology and infrastructure which reduces and redistributes unpaid care work and focus on how to catalyse investment in social infrastructure such as child care services, urban public transportation, rural feeder roads, safe water for domestic use, which create new jobs and support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

  7. Support projects where private sector engagement has the potential to scale up new markets that can benefit people living in poverty and support small- and medium-sized and women led enterprises.

II. Innovative and productive

The economy in the short and medium term will be shaped by frontier technologies. Gender equality will be key to an inclusive transformation. Robotics and artificial intelligence, blockchain, 3D printing, internet of things and wearable internet, and machine learning are at the heart of this global digital transformation towards a World 2.0. The market for AI, big data and business analytics is set to grow to US$210 billion by 2020, and by 2021, 90% of consumers will be engaging with Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots. This will have major impacts on money, payments and markets and with increased emphasis on fintech and cybersecurity. Automation (replacing people with technology) is expected to spread across sectors and occupations, including those traditionally dominated by women (e.g. retail trade, food and beverage services).

Other women-dominated jobs, such as health, business services, education and social services, are expected to grow. However, the main challenge of the future will not necessarily be automation and unemployment, but rather effective matching of people with the skills required by the market. This will require continuous adaptation and a willingness to learn, reskill and upskill oneself. In the G7, reskilling will be required at the range of 48% in Italy, to 29% in the US and 25% in Japan. In this context, girls and women need to be equipped to take advantage of the expansion of the economy, learn how to use technology in their private and professional lives, as well as become the technology creators and innovators of the future.

Within this context, girls and women need to be equipped to take advantage of the expansion of the economy, learn how to use technology in their private and professional lives, as well as become the technology creators and innovators of the future. We call on the G7 to:

  1. Ensure girls and women reap the benefits of digital transformation.

    1. Revise primary and secondary school curricula to make them more agile and responsive to frontier technologies and make targeted efforts to engage girls by 2020.

    2. Invest in and roll out teacher training for them to become competent in embedding technology in a gender-sensitive manner in all subjects they teach by 2020.

    3. Establish online/offline life-long learning institutes that support women’s strengthened STEAM-D (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics and design) skills and digital literacy and expertise in both sectors facing automation as well as sectors driven by frontier technologies.

    4. Increase girls’ and women’s access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and skills training that is certified and demand-driven and that builds women’s skills for jobs for the future and support developing countries to build the necessary infrastructure to enable their students to learn digital literacy skills in schools and colleges.

    5. Create a facility aimed at bridging knowledge gaps between national policy-makers, the private sector and donors on the implications of the knowledge economy – digital technology, artificial intelligence and automation – for girls’ education and what is needed through education to help them access decent work and the jobs of the future.

    6. Develop behaviour-change campaigns to significantly shift attitudes towards girls and women in technology and stereotypes about them.

    7. Facilitate annual dialogues and action plans for close collaboration between policy-makers, educators and the private sector to unite around effective measures for a gender inclusive digital transformation.

  2. Ensure that AI technologies are gender-responsive and do not reproduce existing gender biases

    1. Fund de-biasing research and assess the gender impact of automation, which would include research programs that seek to address machine learning bias, including through Artificial Intelligence Strategies that would encourage rights-promoting AI research, including de-biasing for machine learning systems and developing business models which support quality jobs.

    2. Fund research that assesses the gender implications of AI, including preventing the potential for AI to perpetuate and exacerbate existing inequalities and injustices, and misuse.

    3. Support education, training and reskilling on digital literacy and AI and exchange information on workforce development for AI skills, including apprenticeships, computer science and STEM education, especially for girls and women.

    4. Engage private employers and professional regulatory bodies and international organizations to develop: a) a certification mechanism for human rights and gender equality compliant AI; and b) a professional ethical oath for computer engineers and software designers in partnership with universities and colleges.

    5. Conduct gender impact assessments of AI design and implementation with the view to make clear recommendations to AI industry leaders, developers and users.

    6. Promote safe, secure, reliable and ethical AI applications in the marketplace, workplace and community and exchange information about regulations having an impact on AI growth.

    7. Support and involve women and underrepresented populations /marginalized communities as creators, stakeholders, leaders and decision makers at all stages of technological development and implementation in order to develop tools that benefit all sectors of society.

  3. Recognize and address the role that the ‘data in exchange for services’ commercial model that currently characterizes digital networks and technologies plays in shaping the labour environment in ways that maintain and sustain gender inequality and discrimination.

    1. Improve regulation of online service providers and technology platforms to mandate greater transparency and accountability in their collection, use and distribution of user’s data, and in the development of new technologies. This will become increasingly urgent as service providers and technology developers continue to move toward machine-based algorithmic decision-making, which could compromise the ability to provide explanations for decisions and impacts in terms that are accessible, accountable and transparent.

    2. Ensure that models of informed consent underpins the development and implementation of new technologies.

Pay Equity and Decent Work

The higher economic productivity and growth promised by emerging technology could be complemented by pay equity legislation which is monitored and enforced by the government. We call on the G7 governments to recognize that pay disparities are higher for women with disabilities, racialized and Indigenous women, further compounding pay inequities and act to eliminate the existing disparities. We call on the G7 to:

  1. Ensure equal pay for equal work, and the creation of decent work with dignified and safe conditions through social dialogue and collective bargaining which include Workers Rights Organizations.

    1. Enact pay equity legislation which is monitored and enforced.

    2. Ensure pay equity legislation includes provisions that prohibit companies from asking incoming employees about their previous salary in order to ensure that women are not be penalized for their gendered wage gap, and that all genders negotiate their salary based on merit.

    3. Ensure laws are in place that prohibit discrimination against women in hiring, training and promotions and repeal laws that restrict women’s access to certain occupations.

    4. Recognize that pay disparities are higher for women with disabilities, racialized and Indigenous women further compounding pay inequities.

    5. Enact legislation whereby companies found to be non-compliant with pay equity legislation must pay fines to ensure compliance with pay equity laws. The top 100 firms who demonstrate compliance are eligible for tax breaks.

    6. Require all employers with more than 250 employees to annually and publicly report sex-disaggregated pay and bonuses, both in the company as a whole and at different levels of management.

    7. Complement pay equity efforts by ensuring social dialogue and the extension of collective bargaining rights, particularly for women in low wage and precarious work.

    8. Incentivize the private sector to achieve pay equality for women and men in the company as a whole and at all levels of management by 2030 with penalties for not complying and adopt a “comply or explain” model of reporting on pay equity.

    9. Increase support of labour rights and collective action to ensure decent work and living wages for women and people of diverse gender identities.

    10. Ensure that labour laws include equal pay for work of equal value on the basis of gender.

    11. Create provisions within labour laws that protect against gender and sexuality discrimination.

    12. Create an enabling legal environment for informal workers (and those in vulnerable employment), extending workers’ rights and entitlements and recognizing rights to secure housing and land tenure and access to public space, raw materials, natural resources, transport and basic infrastructures and services.

    13. Enable women’s life-long access to education, training and mentoring, including on the job training to upgrade their skills and training in non-traditional skills to support them to move up the occupational ladder.

    14. Reduce the gender gap in the labor force participation by 25% by 2025.


Document: Recommendations from the Gender Equality Advisory Council for Canada’s G7 Presidency