An update to a 2011 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report that found women continue to occupy a “marginal” place in agrifood systems said that closing the gender gap would add $1 trillion to the global economy.
Women represent more than half of the agricultural workforce in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and just under half in Southeast Asia, but they must cope with work conditions that are often more difficult than those of men, in that they are confined to jobs that are casual, part-time, informal, or low-skilled.
Around the world, women are lagging behind when it comes to access to land, resources like fertilizers and seeds, financing or technology, while they are often more dependent on agriculture to survive.
Due to their lack of resources and information, “women also have a lower capacity for adaptation and resilience during climate shocks.”
During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, “22 percent of women lost their jobs” in agri-food industries, compared to just two percent of men. Their income is also 18.4 percent lower than men employed in agriculture.
And while majority of public agricultural policies acknowledge women’s difficulties, only 19 percent display “gender equality as a specific objective,” according to the FAO.
Yet “the elimination of these disparities that exist between women and men, as it pertains to agricultural productivity and wages… would increase global GDP by 1 percent,” or nearly $1 trillion. It would also reduce the number of food-insecure people by 45 million.
The Philippines may sometimes be described as a relatively gender equal society, but it apparently has a long way to go in the agrifood sector, where women have been making significant contributions without the same benefits and protections as men. Government and the private sector, especially stakeholders in the agriculture space, will have to focus on this issue as we aspire to take it to its next level.*