The World's Women 2015


Chapter 8

Gender disparities in poverty are rooted in inequalities in access to economic resources. In many countries, women continue to be economically dependent on their spouses. Lower proportions of women than men have their own cash income from labour as a result of the unequal division of paid and unpaid work. In developing countries, statutory and customary laws continue to restrict women’s access to land and other assets, and women’s control over household economic resources is limited. In nearly a third of developing countries, laws do not guarantee the same inheritance rights for women and men, and in an additional half of countries discriminatory customary practices against women are found. Moreover, about one in three married women from developing regions has no control over household spending on major purchases, and about one in 10 married women is not consulted on how their own cash earnings are spent.

Gender disparities in poverty are more visible with the diversification of family arrangements, including an increase in one-person households and one-parent families. Working-age women in developed and developing countries are more likely to be poorer than men when they have dependant children and no partners to contribute to the household income or when their own income is non-existent or too low to support the entire family. At older ages, women in developed countries are more likely than men to be poor, particularly when living in one-person households. The difference in poverty rates between women and men, including among lone parents with dependant children and among older persons, is narrowing in some countries while it remains persistent in others. This points to the need for social protection systems that take into account the emerging diversification of family arrangements.