Gender Equality Cannot Be Achieved Without Tax Reform for Multinational Companies

Women’s organisations in developing countries can be proud of themselves. Thanks to their struggles, more states have adopted laws to promote gender equality at work. Overall, women have greater access to their own incomes, more of us are working, and the gender gap in the quality of employment is narrowing slightly.

Nevertheless, pay gaps still exist between women and men doing the same work. Women are disproportionately represented in informal jobs and jobs without decent working conditions including living wages, maternity leave, or pensions. In Africa and Asia, UN Women found that 75% of women’s work is currently in the informal sector.

Women continue to carry disproportionate housework and unpaid care responsibilities. Looking after dependent family members, cleaning and cooking are still ‘women’s affairs’ in many places, limiting opportunities for education, training and paid work, making true economic empowerment impossible.

Today, there is renewed commitment to gender equality and human rights at the international level, including through the UN’s 2013 sustainable development agenda. But this clashes with local political realities in many places, with governments implementing harsh austerity policies with devastating consequences for unprotected populations.

At the same time, the general public is increasingly aware that many multinational companies only pay a portion of the taxes they owe (as revealed yet again by the Paradise Papers scandal), leaving governments with fewer public resources.

What seems to have most surprised citizens is that many corporate tax abuses are legal. Companies can legally declare profits not where they are made, but in other countries with lower — even zero-tax rates. This perpetuates tax competition, pressuring countries into levying increasingly lower taxes.

Less well-known is how this system limits progress on women’s rights and gender equality — which cannot be achieved without tax reform for multinational…

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