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Social and Economic determinants of gender equity: Strategies for a prosperous future for women in Wales

March 8, 2024

In the pursuit of health and well-being for the people of Wales, various foundational elements must be firmly in place. These elements, often referred to as the building blocks of health, encompass essentials such as secure housing, meaningful employment, financial stability, safe childhoods, and robust community connections.

Gender equality stands as a fundamental pillar in the efforts for a prosperous and modern economy capable of sustainable, inclusive growth. Its significance lies in enabling men and women to contribute fully across various spheres of life, whether at home, in the workforce, or in public engagements, thereby enriching societies and economies on a broader scale. However, persistent gender inequalities exist across social and economic spheres, amplifying existing inequalities and profoundly impacting overall life experiences.

Background and context of gender inequalities in Wales

Women, girls, and those assigned female at birth (AFAB) constitute 50% of the population in Wales. However, evidence has shown that women in Wales face challenges which directly and indirectly influence their health. When discussing gender inequalities, the concept of intersectionality becomes relevant as it highlights how various identities intersect to shape social relations and individual experiences. Race, class, age, ethnicity, sexual or other identities can intersect to exacerbate health inequalities.  Evidence has shown that black and minority ethnic group and disabled and lone parent women face especially worse health inequalities linked to social and economic status.

Wales faces health inequalities related to gender, including poverty, maternal health inequalities, violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence, unequal access to healthcare services, and the impact of the gender wage gap. While men also face violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence, it disproportionately affects women and girls. Estimates show that 1.4 million women aged 16-59 experienced incidents of domestic abuse in England and Wales. On average 1 in 5 women aged 16 – 59 experienced some form of sexual violence.

While the labour force participation rates of women have moved closer to those of men over the past few decades, women are still less likely to be in the workforce and often experience lower job quality.  Women with jobs are more likely to work part-time, for lower pay, and in less lucrative sectors. Women are also less likely to advance to management positions, and more likely to face discrimination in the workplace. Also, according to a report on poverty in Wales, Wales’ gender pay gap remains 11.3% as a trend analysis has also shown that there has been no reduction in the extent of low pay in Wales for a decade, with the proportion of jobs that are low paid remaining at around 25%.  We know that fair work is a key determinant of health.

On average, women spend roughly triple the amount of time that men do each day in unpaid care and domestic work, according to the latest available data from around 90 countries. That work includes a variety of unpaid activities, such as taking care of children and the elderly, and domestic chores. This double burden of managing work and home life can impact women’s health and wellbeing.

The cost-of-living crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic further worsen the issues mentioned and disproportionately affected women in Wales and the UK. It is worth noting that poverty and income then has impact on the individual, families and society in general. The effects are seen through decreased life expectancy, cost of health services, access to healthy meals, poorer mental health and negative health behaviours.

How can we promote gender equality?

Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach that integrates gender-inclusive policies and gender-responsive budgeting. Gender-responsive policies are a useful tool for bringing the’ concerns of women and girls into mainstream policy and public administration. Such policies are aimed at linking policy and legal requirements for gender equality with resource allocation. They encompass not only initiatives focusing directly on family and care, but also broader measures related to income maintenance, poverty reduction, and labour market regulation.

Policies that reconcile work and family life, notably through early education and care services, can help level the playing field by compensating for disadvantages at home, allowing women to progress in their careers and avoiding the transmission of disadvantages to children. They can also support parents’ participation in the labour market and mitigate the detrimental impacts of financial hardship on the future outcomes of children. Evidence from research of 80 countries has showed that gender-responsive budgeting has the potential to promote equality for all if the following factors for success are put in place: acknowledgement of gender inequities, commitment and support from decision-makers, incorporating gender-responsive budgeting into a country’s legal framework, the availability of gender-disaggregated data and lastly the support of organisations outside of government.

Moreover, adopting an Economy of Well-being framework can provide policymakers with valuable insights into leveraging policies to promote positive outcomes, encompassing both well-being and economic growth. By aligning efforts to promote gender equity with broader socio-economic objectives, Wales can forge a path towards a healthier, more prosperous future for all its residents.

In recognition of Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls’ the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre develops, collects and shares information and tools on how best to invest in better health, reduce inequalities, and build stronger and more resilient communities in Wales, Europe and Worldwide.  The recent webinar on this topic and a policy brief on Gender Inclusive Policies and the Cost-of-living Crisis is evidence of this.


Welsh Government. (2022).The Quality Statement for women and girls’ health [HTML] | GOV.WALES. Cardiff: Welsh Government.  

Poverty and inequality in Wales: what’s changed? (

Economies of well being OECD.pdf

OECD (2018), Is the Last Mile the Longest? Economic Gains from Gender Equality in Nordic Countries, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2015), In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Rubin, M. M., & Bartle, J. R. (2023). Gender‐responsive budgeting: a budget reform to address gender inequity. Public Administration, 101(2), 391-405.