ITUC Economic and Social Policy Brief: Gender Gaps in Social Protection

Worldwide, more than half of the global population is not covered under any type of social protection scheme, and less than 30 per cent enjoys comprehensive social protection. Women are particularly disadvantaged in social protection systems, experiencing lower coverage rates and substantially lower benefit levels. This is due, in part, to the fact that social protection schemes have often been designed around a male breadwinner model, assuming an uninterrupted and full-time career in the formal economy. This tends to penalise women – who are significantly underrepresented in the formal labour market, over represented in informal employment, earn less than men, and experience greater interruptions in their careers due to caring responsibilities. As a result, women are often excluded from contribution-based schemes and leaving them completely unprotected in the absence of social protection floors. This brief explores the policies that have been shown to be helpful in reducing gender gaps in social protection: which include measures to reduce barriers to women’s labour market participation, measures to tackle the gender pay gap, supporting the transition to the formal economy, crediting periods of care in social security contributions, and guaranteeing adequate, universal social protection floors.