Economy Global Other Issues

New Oxfam Study Shows Women’s Labor is Underpaid and Undervalued

A recent study by international nonprofit Oxfam shows that the state of global economic inequality is out of control. Oxfam highlights the severity of this inequality and the negative impacts it has on women by shining a light on the fact that: the world’s richest 22 men having a greater combined wealth than all of the women in Africa, an individual saving $10,000 each day since the initial building of the pyramids in Egypt would leave you with only one-fifth of the average fortune of the world’s five richest billionaires, and that the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth between them than 4.8 billion individuals.

According to Oxfam, this divide is “based on a flawed and sexist economic system” that “exploit[s] the labour of women and girls” while “systematically violating their rights.” The purpose of this study was to show that wealth, poverty, and the growing gap that divides them are gendered and create a cycle of poverty on the backs of women uncompensated for necessary work.

According to Oxfam’s study, around the world women and girls provide work that is “essential to our communities” and “underpins thriving families and a healthy and productive workforce.” In a statement for the New York Times, Gawain Kripke, policy director for Oxfam America, said that, “there’s something deeply sick about the economy,” and that, “the fact that women around the world are doing so much work that is uncompensated, unrecognized and unsupported is a part of the problem.” According to Oxfam’s calculations, this work adds “at least $10.8 trillion” worth of value to the economy, and even that statistic is a gross underestimate and this “heavy and unequal responsibility of care work perpetuates gender and economic inequalities.”

As far as gender is concerned, women are not the only party impacted by this economic inequality, but they are the majority of those being negatively impacted. As mentioned in the study, this is due to the fact that the current economic system favors and values “the wealth of the privileged few, mostly men,” whose “wealth grows exponentially over time, with little effort, and regardless of whether they add value to society.”

To confront this issue of gender and economic inequality, Oxfam urges global governments to “build a human economy that is feminist and values what truly matters to society, rather than fueling an endless pursuit of profit and wealth.” These efforts would not only acknowledge the importance of caretaking work done by these women and girls but would also create a system where that work is valued which would allow women to more fully participate in the economy they contribute to.

Sources: Oxfam.org 1/2020; The New York Times 1/23/2020

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