UNFPAState of World Population 2002
Back to Main Menu
State of World Population Report (HTML)
Journalists' Press Kit
PDF Version of Report
Ordering Information
Previous Years' Reports


(Not for release before 3 December 2002)

Multiple Dimensions of Poverty
Macroeconomics, Poverty, Population and Development
Poverty and Gender
Poor Health and Poverty
HIV/AIDS and Poverty
Poverty and Education
Population, Poverty and Global Development Goals: The Way Ahead

Poverty and Gender

More women than men live in poverty and the disparity has increased over the past decade, particularly in developing countries. Reducing the “gender gap” in health and education reduces individual poverty and encourages economic growth.

While economic growth and rising incomes reduce gender inequality, they do not break down all barriers to women’s social participation and development. There must be specific action to ensure that social and legal institutions guarantee women’s equality in basic legal and human rights. Women need access to or control of land and other resources, equitable employment and earnings, as well as social and political participation.

The most obvious and brutal impact of gender bias is in sexual violence. One woman in three will experience violence at some time in her life.

Power, nutrition, health and time allocation may be more important than income in determining the differences in well-being between men and women. Surveys show that women work longer hours than men in nearly every country and that at least one half of women’s total work time is spent on unpaid work. Much of this work is not included in national accounting systems. This invisibility translates into incapacity: what countries do not count, they do not support.

Programmes that reduce gender inequality can significantly improve individual and household welfare and national economic growth. If sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia had had the same female-male ratio in years of schooling that East Asia did in 1960, and had closed the education gender gap at the rate achieved by East Asia from 1960 to 1992, their per capita income could have grown by an additional 0.5 to 0.9 percentage points per year in sub-Saharan Africa, 1.7 per cent in South Asia and 2.2 per cent in West Asia.

Improving women’s education helps reduce fertility and child malnutrition and improve maternal and child survival. One study found that an additional year of female education reduced total fertility by 0.23 births, another that the reduction was 0.32 births.

In countries where girls are only half as likely to go to school as boys, there are on average 21 more infant deaths per 1,000 live births than in countries with no gender gap.

Empowering women is also key to halting the AIDS epidemic. Today, women represent nearly one half of all infected adults and 58 per cent of adults infected in hard-hit sub-Saharan Africa. A study in Zambia revealed that only 11 per cent of the women interviewed believed that a married woman could ask her husband to use a condom, even if she knew that he had been visiting sex workers and was possibly infected.

The global community has developed a serious set of blueprints for addressing inequality. Their recommendations are laid out in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, and the Platform for Action of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women.

 Back to top PreviousNext