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Beijing Platform for Action. Paragraph 156

2022-04-27

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): The Good Men Project

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/09/26

156. Although many women have advanced in economic structures, for the majority of women, particularly those who face additional barriers, continuing obstacles have hindered their ability to achieve economic autonomy and to ensure sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their dependants. Women are active in a variety of economic areas, which they often combine, ranging from wage labour and subsistence farming and fishing to the informal sector. However, legal and customary barriers to ownership of or access to land, natural resources, capital, credit, technology and other means of production, as well as wage differentials, contribute to impeding the economic progress of women. Women contribute to development not only through remunerated work but also through a great deal of unremunerated work. On the one hand, women participate in the production of goods and services for the market and household consumption, in agriculture, food production or family enterprises. Though included in the United Nations System of National Accounts and therefore in international standards for labour statistics, this unremunerated work – particularly that related to agriculture – is often undervalued and under-recorded. On the other hand, women still also perform the great majority of unremunerated domestic work and community work, such as caring for children and older persons, preparing food for the family, protecting the environment and providing voluntary assistance to vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals and groups. This work is often not measured in quantitative terms and is not valued in national accounts. Women’s contribution to development is seriously underestimated, and thus its social recognition is limited. The full visibility of the type, extent and distribution of this unremunerated work will also contribute to a better sharing of responsibilities.

Beijing Declaration (1995)

Though remarkably long in its presentation, Paragraph 156 is important in its length for several reasons, which we will cover. Perhaps, I can add some more sophistication to the entire affair as separate documents are referenced within its remit. Now, and in 1995, women have advanced in the economies of their relevant host countries. There are barriers; there have been barriers. Circa 1995, the barriers stipulated were seen as “obstacles” preventing the full capacity of women to reach “economic autonomy.”

An “economic autonomy” meaning an ability for individual women to become independent in financial stability from, presumably, the men, more often, in their lives. It is autonomous to live with autonymity in one’s own life in regards to money. This will incorporate a wide range of important factors including work and kinds of work tied to the number of hours. The types of working conditions and labour protections for the women. The pipeline of work with educational attainment and then the possible occupations available from that point forward.

Any form of economic autonymity will come to create a strong base for the economic sustainability of livelihood. In this, it’s not simply a one-off for financial gain for the woman. It’s the better work and working conditions that would more probably incorporate a form of sustainability of life and livelihood for an individual woman in some of the more advanced economies. It would be the same for women with dependants. An ability to earn sufficient money for sustainable livelihood becomes the basis for psychological and physical wellbeing in most contexts, where finances or monetary currency also permit a range of freedoms too.

With this increased activity of women in “economic areas,” there will be individuals who aim to prevent proper provisions for women from labour rights being respected to full-time employment, to steady schedules, decent wages, and so on. Women work “from wage labour and subsistence farming and fishing to the informal sector,” and everything else in between. Herein, we see the ideas of concept of the working woman has taken shape and place at 1995 and since 1995 into 2020.

Even in spite of this change in the popular image of the working woman, we can see some other issues dealing with the “legal and customary barriers” in front of women. As to the legal barriers, let’s take even a highly progressive country such as my own, Canada, it’s own frameworks prevented women from entering into particular jobs. Women were limited to a small number of jobs including nurse, elementary school teacher, and then some of the informal jobs, e.g., stay-at-home mother. There were very few areas for women to enter into the workforce.

Even on the state of the law, many countries prevent women from entering into some areas of or domains of paid work. Their role, as per the perception of the State, is one of caring for the home and rearing the next generations: Period. We can see this imposed in some subtle ways in theocratic states with the enforcement by law of wearing the headscarf rather than having the choice to wear the headscarf or not without the thread of legal force.

These legal barriers can build into the ideas of the customary barriers or customs of the culture acting as barriers too. These become barriers for women in terms of “ownership of or access to land, natural resources, capital, credit, technology and other means of production” leading to wage differences. Quite naturally, all of these impact the possibility for economic viability, sustainability, and equality of women with men. The ongoing unremunerated work of women in a variety of domains have been some of the main areas of time sinks for women compared to men.

We can see this not only in the caring of the children and the management of the minutiae of the home, but also in the forms of other unpaid work on behalf of others, e.g., making meals, driving children to and from soccer practice, managing parent-teacher time and schedules, medical visits, and the like. This extends into the social domains too with much of the formulations of the types of things that women can accomplish kept to the imaginable.

Another nuance in this particular paragraph is the emphasis on the participation of women in the “production of goods and services for the market and household consumption, in agriculture, food production or family enterprises.” One can imagine the scenarios here; it will depend on the society or the culture. However, we can make some reasonable estimations as to the lives of the individual women in contexts constricting them here.

A “great deal of unremunerated work” is done by women; work off the books. The questions about the ethics of this come to the culture and the idea of volunteerism. If this is merely an aspect of contributing to the world of volunteering and expanding on some of the important values expressed here, then this is great; however, if this is something in which women are coerced by social pressure and man-made institutions and norms into performing as a matter of gender role course, perhaps, then we can consider these rather unfair and biased, to some extent, activities against the mutual favour of men and women, and more in the favour of the men at the expense of the women. It is this exploitation of the goodwill and labour of women is that the heart and the core issue of the inequality around unremunerated work.

These are intriguingly incorporated into the United Nations System of National Accounts. Thusly, the unremunerated work in agriculture is counted, which, in some sense, makes these inequalities all the more baffling. If the inequalities are known, and if there is not enough being done about it, then this simply and purely, especially at the international level, represents a gross violation of egalitarian principles and exposes a large degree of negligence because the presumption for so many was that this wasn’t catalogued or known as much more than two decades ago. With the inclusion in the United Nations System of National Accounts, it is counted.  If curious, the UNSNA states:

The System of National Accounts (SNA) is the internationally agreed standard set of recommendations on how to compile measures of economic activity. The SNA describes a coherent, consistent and integrated set of macroeconomic accounts in the context of a set of internationally agreed concepts, definitions, classifications and accounting rules.

In addition, the SNA provides an overview of economic processes, recording how production is distributed among consumers, businesses, government and foreign nations. It shows how income originating in production, modified by taxes and transfers, flows to these groups and how they allocate these flows to consumption, saving and investment. Consequently, the national accounts are one of the building blocks of macroeconomic statistics forming a basis for economic analysis and policy formulation.

The SNA is intended for use by all countries, having been designed to accommodate the needs of countries at different stages of economic development. It also provides an overarching framework for standards in other domains of economic statistics, facilitating the integration of these statistical systems to achieve consistency with the national accounts. (United Nations System of National Accounts, 2020)

This is a comprehensive “internationally agreed standard set of recommendations on how to compile measures of economic activity” ‘describing a coherent and consistent set of integrated macroeconomic accounts.’ All this becomes an academic formulation of stipulating the forms and manners in which women’s work, remunerated and unremunerated, can be counted. If counted, then it can be acted upon, as such, because it removes the degree of mystery rather than not. This is good. It is not good in the level of negligence on the part of societies to not encourage a culture and an ethical sensibility of a shared set of responsibilities in and out of the home in regards to the larger society.

Our societies are worse off because of this known negligence. We can do so much better, and aren’t. These areas of work done by women is the work associated with being “undervalued and under-recorded.” In these respects, there is a clear sense of there being a discriminatory treatment towards women – evidenced, Q.E.D. – requiring more conscientiousness to acknowledge and act.

As stated, “On the other hand, women still also perform the great majority of unremunerated domestic work and community work, such as caring for children and older persons, preparing food for the family, protecting the environment and providing voluntary assistance to vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals and groups.”

That’s a lot. In essence, it is pointing to some of the factors and facts delineated before about lack of remuneration regarding domestic work and community work. All these become part and parcel of the work of the expected social role for women. Community work and domestic work, e.g., childrearing and homecare, are often not only expected but demanded in these environments for the women.

Shockingly, “This work is often not measured in quantitative terms and is not valued in national accounts.” There is only a qualitative valuation given to this form of work, and the work becomes devalued because it is seen, by implication and not by title, as “women’s work.” The social recognition following from this is devastatingly terrible. All forms of remuneration – “type, extent and distribution of this” – are ill-considered or not considered.

A “better sharing of responsibilities” is the only way forward here.

(Updated 2020-07-07, only use the updated listing, please) Not all nations, organizations, societies, or individuals accept the proposals of the United Nations; one can find similar statements in other documents, conventions, declarations and so on, with the subsequent statements of equality or women’s rights, and the important days and campaigns devoted to the rights of women and girls too:

Documents

Strategic Aims

Celebratory Days

Guidelines and Campaigns

Women and Men Women’s Rights Campaigners

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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