Mainstreaming gender equality in social security

Inequalities across the life course impact the access to social security and therefore on the level of benefits. Women are particularly affected by these inequalities. During its recent European seminar on this issue, the International Social Security Association (ISSA) and its members discussed measures that can be taken to reduce gender inequalities. The ISSA also committed to work towards mainstreaming a gender perspective in its professional guidelines on social security.

Inequalities across the life course have been identified as part of the ten global challenges for social security. The gender pay gap and gender pension gap are cases in point. They are mainly the result of part-time work, gender segregated labour markets, lower wages and unpaid work and care. Women also tend to suffer more from the lack of work-life balance, which can result in increased stress and related disabilities, influencing their labour market participation and their access to social security.

To address these issues, the ISSA recently organized a seminar on gender mainstreaming in Reykjavik together with the Social Insurance Administration and the Ministry of Welfare in Iceland. From the discussions, measures on the labour market were stressed as key to allow for a more equal participation and remuneration of women. This could consist of an equal pay standard, as recently introduced by law in Iceland or more flexibility in the workplace to ensure a better work-life balance. A more equal repartition of the roles between men and women to balance professional career and family life should also be promoted.

The role of social security

Social security has an important role to play to support the equality between men and women, as also highlighted by ISSA Secretary General Hans-Horst Konkolewsky at this seminar and at the recent International Labour Conference. Redistributive mechanisms can be implemented in pension systems to compensate for lower life-long earnings and unpaid work and care of women, thus guaranteeing adequate benefits to both men and women and reducing the gender pension gap. Non-transferable parental leave for both mothers and fathers has also proven to be a good incentive for fathers to get more involved in the care of children, and thus shifting the perception of gender specific roles.

Artificial intelligence, platform and freelance work as well as temporary employment contracts are revolutionising the world of work, increased flexibility may ease women’s active participation in the labour market. However, it can also mean a deterioration of the working conditions including the number of working hours and the level of wages and social benefits. It is therefore important that policy makers not only ensure the framework and incentives for the creation of future jobs but also the quality of working conditions and access to social security.

The IEN Technical Seminar on gender mainstreaming in social security was an important step in addressing the challenge of the gender social security gap. Future work will in particular include mainstreaming a gender and equality perspective in the ISSA guidelines for social security administration.


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