The Feminization of Poverty

The feminization of poverty is “the phenomenon in which women experience poverty at rates that are disproportionately high in comparison to men.” In fact, women make up 70% of all those living in poverty in the world. (This link takes you to where the above definition came from as well as it completely lays out the feminization of poverty, why it takes place, and where.)

Taken from the aformentioned link, four key reasons for the feminization of poverty as identified by the United Nations Development Fund for Women are:

“1. The temporal dimension. Women are often primarily responsible for childcare and household duties—tasks for which they receive no pay. Women living in developing nations may also be relied upon to participate in exhausting physical and/or agricultural labor to help support the livelihoods of their families and villages. Having so many other responsibilities, these women have less time to devote to paid employment, and consequently earn a smaller income, even though they are effectively doing more work than their male counterparts.

2. The spatial dimension. When employment is sare, women may have to migrate to other areas to find work temporarily. If a woman has children, however, she may be unable to pursue a job that takes her far from her family.

3. The employment segmentation dimension. Being naturally classified as caretakers, women have often been corralled into specific lines of work, such as teaching, caring for children and the elderly, domestic servitude, and factory work such as textile production. These kinds of jobs lack stability, security and a higher income.

4. The valuation dimension. In the same vein, the unpaid labor that women perform in taking care of family members and other household chores is considered of far less worth (at least economically) than positions that require formal education or training.”

I think drawing attention to the above points is both very eye opening and important. I know that I personally had never noticed that the jobs characterized as “women’s jobs” were those that were less stable and low paying (shocking I know I’m surprised I’d never caught on before this, especially in light of biological determinism and the wage gap and the like.) Women are left to raise children and do lots of work in the house, etc. that they do not get paid for. If women go on maternity leave to raise the children that the men no doubt are not going to take off of work for, they do not get paid for this missed time and also risk the chance of being demoted as well as the opportunity to gain a promotion. While in industrialized nations, there is access to daycare and programs of the like, in rural areas and agricultural communities, women cannot take jobs that require them to commute far from the family. All of these factors fall into line together to allow women to make up the aforemetioned 70% of the entire world’s population that is in poverty.

Men are more likely to be free of the responsibility of being a child’s sole caretaker and thus have the ability to be engaged in the process of attaining promotions and climbing the corporate ladder, so to speak. There is also a significantly higher chance that a woman will become a single mother rather than the other way around. 

An interesting question that comes to mind, in the case of the occupation as a teacher for example, is that if men were predominantly in such occupations as teaching, textile manufacturing, serving, etc. would these positions be more secure and higher paying? It is abhorred but I believe the answer is yes. Women are staying in poverty because society does not allow them the opportunity to not be in such a compromising position. 




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