Key Resources: Inequalities

Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics (2010) Geneva: UNRISD, (last accessed 6 May 2015), 380 pp.

Arguing that ‘poverty and inequality must be considered as interconnected parts of the same problem’ (p. 5) this major report published by the UN Research Institute for Social Development in 2010 finds that for countries that have been successful in increasing the well-being of the majority of their populations over relatively short periods of time, progress has occurred largely through state-directed strategies that combine economic development objectives with active social policies and forms of politics that promote the interests of the poor in public policy. The report is structured around three main issues, which, it argues, are the crucial elements of a sustainable and inclusive development strategy: patterns of growth and structural change; comprehensive social policies; and protection of civic rights, activism, and political arrangements. Two chapters focus specifically on inequalities between women and men. Chapter 4 – Gender Inequalities at Home and in the Market – examines women and the labour market, making the important point that while women’s access to paid work has increased in most countries, at the same time a deterioration has occurred in the terms and conditions of much of that work, with livelihoods becoming increasingly insecure and precarious: ‘Economic growth does not necessarily reduce gender gaps in earnings or enhance women’s economic autonomy’ (p. 107). The report also makes the worrying point that sex-ratio imbalances are deepening in China and India, two countries that have seen rapid rates of economic growth over the past decade, along with a rise in sex-selective abortions. Chapter 7 – Care and Well-Being in a Development Context – argues for the urgency of addressing unpaid care – which while invisible and undervalued, underpins economic growth and social development and is undertaken predominantly by women across all economies and cultures – through public policy.

Strengthening Social Justice to Address Intersecting Inequalities Post-2015 (2014) Veronica Paz Arauco, Haris Gazdar, Paula Hevia-Pacheco, Naila Kabeer, Amanda Lenhardt, Syeda Quratulain Masood, Haider Naqvi, Nandini Nayak, Andrew Shepherd, Deepak Thapa, Sukhadeo Thorat, and D. Hien Tran, London: ODI, (last accessed 23 July 2015), 76 pp.

Taking as its starting point Naila Kabeer’s 2010 report Can the MDGs Provide a Pathway to Social Justice? The Challenge of Intersecting Inequalities ( websiteu2WC.pdf, last accessed 6 May 2015) this scholarly paper argues that the people most likely to be left out of development progress are those who experience ‘intersecting inequalities’ that is, economic disadvantage which intersects with discrimination and exclusion on the grounds of identity (often ascribed from birth; such as race, caste, and ethnicity and which can include religion, disability, and sexuality) and locational disadvantage. The authors state that ‘Gender cuts across these different identities so that within most groups women and girls are positioned as subordinate to men. Unlike most socially subordinate groups, however, women and girls are distributed fairly evenly across different economic classes so that gender on its own does not constitute a marker of poverty. It is the intersection of gender with economic and other inequalities that explains the intensified nature of disadvantage often faced by poorer women and girls’ (p. 10). However, they provide the important qualification that most poverty data only assess income and consumption levels at the household level, so that intra-family economic inequalities often remain hidden (p. 10). Focusing on the experience of seven countries, the report finds that the key ingredients for addressing intersecting inequalities are: social movements demanding change; political projects with a goal of enhancing social justice; the potential of constitutional change; frameworks of rights and guarantees; and commitment to long-term approaches and policies to reduce intersecting equalities over time. Of particular interest to readers of G& D may be the data on gender and social marginalisation in South Africa (taken from Kabeer 2010) on p. 2; life expectancy rates of Dalit women in India (p. 42); the section on women’s land rights on p. 47; and the section on targeted versus universalist policies and programmes, which includes assessments of cash transfer programmes focusing on women in Brazil and Pakistan and the gender-blind Pluri-national Plan in Ecuador (pp. 52–7).

Gender, Poverty and Development (2015) Sylvia Chant and Gwendolyn Beetham (eds.), London and New York: Routledge, ISBN: 978-0-415-71195-1, 1,924 pp., website: www.

This multi-volume compendium, probably likely to be found only in major or academic libraries, includes groundbreaking, classic texts alongside new research. It forms a hugely valuable resource that seeks to provide what is essentially a stand-alone ‘library’ for understanding the gendered dimensions of the contexts, causes, and effects of poverty, internationally. Each volume opens with an introductory essay by the editors, and given the exhaustive scope of the compendium, it is worth providing a full breakdown of how the contents are organised here: Volume I, Key Approaches and Concepts – Part 1: Conceptual Approaches to Gender and Poverty in Relation to Household Dynamics, Divisions of Labour, and Sexuality. Part 2: Feminization of Poverty. Part 3: Gender, Structural Adjustment, and Economic Crisis. Part 4: Quantifying Gendered Poverty and Inequality: Measures and Indicators. Volume II, Gender and Poverty in the Domestic Domain – Part 1: Gender, Households, and Poverty. Part 2: Femaleheaded Households and Poverty. Part 3: Reproductive Rights and Gender Discrimination. Volume III, Gendered Poverties in Relation to Health, Labour Markets, and Assets – Part 1: Health. Part 2: Employment and Labour Markets. Part 3: Assets and Social Capital. Volume IV, Gender, Poverty, and Policy Interventions – Part 1: Policy Approaches: Development ‘Goals’, Gender Mainstreaming, and ‘Women’s Empowerment’. Part 2: Poverty Reduction Programmes: PRSPs, CCTs, and Microfinance.

‘Gender, poverty and inequality: the role of markets, states and households’ (2010) Shahra Razavi and Silke Staab, in Sylvia Chant (ed.), The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty: Concepts, Research, Policy, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, pp. 427–33

This short article analyses income poverty from a gender perspective, examining the interplay between the labour market – characterised everywhere by the concentration of more women than men in sectors with lower pay, poorer working conditions, and limited prospects – the welfare policies pursued by governments that serve to mitigate women’s disadvantages; and the household, where, in all societies, the labour force is itself ‘produced’ by the unpaid care work performed disproportionately by women and girls, and where although income pooling, for example, might mean a household qualifies as non-poor, a woman herself may experience poverty at an individual level, and/or be rendered dependent on a male breadwinner. Using this framework, and with selected country examples, the authors compare and contrast the situation in advanced industrialised countries; middle-income and ‘highly unequal’ Brazil and South Africa; and the agrarian contexts of India and Kenya. Conclusions include that gender norms are embedded within labour markets and operate as a form of social regulation, and that the state has an essential role to play in countering market-based discrimination and in creating decent employment for women, along with providing income support to expand women’s options.

The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty: Concepts, Research, Policy (2010) Sylvia Chant (ed.), Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, ISBN: 978 1 84980 095 2, 736 pp., website:

Another key reference work, this edited volume incorporates conceptual, methodological, and practical contributions, which taken together provide a comprehensive guide to understanding poverty and inequality as processes that are gendered. The thematic range is wide, as is the geographical coverage, with authors offering learning from across the world. The book is organised into the following ten sections: Concepts and Methodologies for Gendered Poverty; Debates on the ‘Feminisation of Poverty’, and Female-headed Households; Gender, Family and Lifecourse; Gender, ‘Race’ and Migration; Gender, Health and Poverty; Gender, Poverty and Assets; Gender, Poverty and Work; Gendered Poverty and Policy Interventions; Microfinance and Women’s Empowerment; and New Frontiers in Gendered Poverty Research. Particularly welcome is the accessibility of the contributions in what might be regarded at first glance, at least, as a book aimed primarily at a scholarly/academic audience.

Even it Up: Time to End Extreme Inequality (2014) Emma Seery and Ana Caistor Arendar, Oxford: Oxfam International, (last accessed 24 April 2015), 138 pp.

Oxfam’s recent flagship report on extreme inequality is an informative and accessible primer on the increasing levels of economic inequality, both between and within countries. Reflecting the ‘very strong link between gender inequality and economic inequality’ (p. 10), and the fact that ‘women are worst affected by market fundamentalist policies’ (p. 13), the report includes a chapter on achieving economic equality for women, and a set of policy prescriptions (pp. 114–5) for promoting women’s economic equality and women’s rights.

Progress of the World’s Women: Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights (2015) New York: UN Women, (last accessed 29 April 2015), 339 pp.

UN Women’s flagship report concentrates on the need to redress the socioeconomic inequalities faced by women while at the same time addressing factors – ‘stereotyping, stigma and violence’ – that reinforce women’s disadvantage, and the need to strengthen women’s ‘agency, voice and participation’. The aim is substantive equality for women – that is, a situation where the formal laws and policies guaranteeing the equal rights of women and girls around the world become a reality on the ground, and the creation of an economic model that works for women. Central to this is the recognition, reduction, and redistribution of unpaid care work. The report is a hugely impressive survey of where we are now, and what needs to change, incorporating large amounts of new research and contributions from many experts in the field, along with case studies documenting positive change. The four main sections focus on public policy, in the form of the law and human rights; the transformation necessary in paid and unpaid work; social policy; and macro-economic policies.

‘Advancing the scope of gender and poverty indices: an agenda and work in progress’ (2010) Thomas Pogge, in Sylvia Chant (ed.), The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty: Concepts, Research, Policy, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, pp. 53–8

In this article, the author critiques leading indices of development, poverty, and gender equity, such as the UN’s Human Development Index and Gender Development Index, highlighting what for him are crucial flaws in methodology, particularly in regard to the shift in focus from individual to country level assessment – for example, life expectancy being averaged across a national population (or across a female and male population), with differences between class or ethnic groups rendered invisible. Another problem highlighted is the bias towards the better off, for example, the inclusion indicators that are relevant to the more privileged, such as women in parliament or women in higher education, which the author argues matter, but ‘are less important than the gender inequities burdening much larger numbers of more disadvantaged women and girls …’ (p. 57). With flawed indices providing misleading information to policymakers, the author argues for the importance of constructing better measures of deprivation.

Measuring Key Disparities in Human Development: The Gender Inequality Index. Human Development Research Paper 2010/46 (2010) Amie Gaye, Jeni Klugman, Milorad Dovacevic, Sarah Twigg, and Eduardo Zambrano, New York: UNDP, http://hdr.undp. org/sites/default/files/hdrp_2010_46.pdf (last accessed 8 May 2015), 37 pp.

Arguing that gender inequality remains a major barrier to human development, this paper, published in 2010, introduces the UN Development Programme’s Gender Inequality Index (GEI), which first appeared as part of the 2010 UN Human Development Report. The paper helpfully outlines the difficulties involved in measuring and monitoring gender inequality, and sets out the limitations of previous indices developed by UNDP. It goes on to explain the choice of indicators, which include economic and political participation, educational attainment, and reproductive health issues, and outlines the methodology for calculating a country’s rating. The final section outlines the results as contained in the 2010 Human Development Report (with the Netherlands ranking highest – that is being the country closest to gender equality – and Yemen lowest) and compares them with results of a selection of other gender indices. (In the 2014 Human Development Report, the GEI ranks Slovenia highest, and Yemen lowest – see http://hdr.undp. org/sites/default/files/hdr14-report-en-1.pdf (last accessed 11 May 2015).

‘Transcending the impact of the financial crisis in the United Kingdom: towards plan F – a feminist economic strategy’ (2015) Ruth Pearson and Diane Elson, Feminist Review 109(1): 8–30

Arguing that it is women who have borne the brunt of austerity policies in the UK, through the impact on unemployment, employment protection and security, public sector services, social security benefits, pensions, and the real value of wages and living standards, this excellent paper by two world-renowned feminist economists calls for the recognition of the gendered nature and operation of the economy – which the authors divide into three spheres – finance, production, and reproduction, the latter being historically neglected in economic policymaking. The paper provides valuable statistical evidence on the gendered impact of austerity in the UK, and sets out measures that would see governments investing in the social infrastructure associated with the reproductive sphere of the economy, along with proposals for financing such a feminist economic policy. A two-page outline document for Plan-F can be found at uploads/2015/02/PLAN-F-2015.pdf (last accessed 11 May 2015).

The Price of Austerity: The Impact on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Europe (2012) Anna Elomäki, Brussels: European Women’s Lobby, accessed 23 July 2015), 18 pp.

This paper argues that the austerity policies implemented by European governments in response to the global recession are having specific, gendered effects, and run the risk of rolling back years of progress made towards the achievement of gender equality. The paper focuses on three areas: cuts in public sector jobs (which have often provided secure and relatively well-paid employment for women) and wages; cuts in services and benefits (which result in women, in their traditional role of ‘carer’, having to fill the void); and cuts in funding for women’s rights and gender equality, with women’s voices silenced through lack of funding for women’s NGOs, along with their capacity to respond in terms of service delivery, and deprioritisation of gender equality as an issue at the national level.

Women’s Economic Independence in Times of Austerity. European Women’s Voice (2015) Brussels: European Women’s Lobby, 7102&lang=en (last accessed 23 May 2015), 46 pp.

In what serves as a follow up to The Price of Austerity (see above), this edition of European Women’s Voice seeks to demonstrate that ongoing austerity measures across the European Union are undermining women’s economic independence. The paper is divided into two parts. Part 1 outlines the situation in five different countries – Scotland, Slovenia, Sweden, Greece, and Italy – noting the consequences of gender-blind and austerity policies (carried out with little or no social impact assessments) which in the case of Greece, the authors argue, have led to a loss of trust in democratic systems. Part II is a call for new economic models that ‘truly tackle the current inequalities in terms of gender pay and pension gaps [and] the imbalance of unpaid work and care responsibilities’ (p. 3), and includes ‘Lessons from Feminists & Women in the Global South’ (p. 34) on the damage wrought by the structural adjustment policies of the 1980s and 1990s, and gender pension inequality in the EU (pp. 32–3).

End of Equality: The Only Way is Women’s Liberation (2014) Beatrix Campbell, London: Seagull Books, ISBN: 9780857421135, 96 pp. website:

This short book by British feminist and author Bea Campbell is aimed at a general, non-academic audience, but is nonetheless solidly grounded in academic debates and contains large amounts of information from around the world (for which see the many references included). In the book, Bea Campbell argues that we are living under a ‘neoliberal neopatriarchy’, in which many feminist advances have not only stalled, but are going backwards. For the author, the detrimental effects of global neo-liberal economic policies on women, along with the high levels of violence experienced by women, in peace time and conflict, represent a crisis for women and for societies as a whole, with welfare states and social solidarity under threat and impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence. In the face of this ‘new sexual settlement’, she calls for a revolution, to bring about a world free from male violence and where collective responsibility is taken for the care of others.