What Causes the Feminization of Poverty?

The feminization of poverty is not a trend that has been brought about arbitrarily or overnight, and it is far from being a fleeting occurrence. There is no singular cause for this phenomenon, yet the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has identified four key “dimensions” that indicate a heightened rate of poverty for women:

1. The temporal dimension. Women are often primarily responsible for childcare and household duties—tasks for which they receive no pay. Women living in developing nations may also be relied upon to participate in exhausting physical and/or agricultural labor to help support the livelihoods of their families and villages. Having so many other responsibilities, these women have less time to devote to paid employment, and consequently earn a smaller income, even though they are effectively doing more work than their male counterparts.

2. The spatial dimension. When employment is sare, women may have to migrate to other areas to find work temporarily. If a woman has children, however, she may be unable to pursue a job that takes her far from her family.

3. The employment segmentation dimension. Being naturally classified as caretakers, women have often been corralled into specific lines of work, such as teaching, caring for children and the elderly, domestic servitude, and factory work such as textile production. These kinds of jobs lack stability, security and a higher income.

4. The valuation dimension. In the same vein, the unpaid labor that women perform in taking care of family members and other household chores is considered of far less worth (at least economically) than positions that require formal education or training.



 Other determinants/factors include:

Unless significant progress is made in restructuring the factors that result in such a disparity, the problem will likely only worsen as the economic divide between the wealthy and the poor widens.