By Annabelle Moreau Santos, consultant for the EUROsociAL+ Programme, Gender Equality Policy Area, Master in Social Sciences and European Affairs.
Gender inequality is a structural problem that can be changed. It should be placed at the centre of social cohesion policies as it is key to reducing socio-economic inequalities. A high degree of inequality can lead to a deterioration in the levels of social cohesion. However, the implementation of social cohesion policies does not necessarily lead to a reduction in the gender gap if these policies do not incorporate mechanisms that alter the predominant tendency, activate measures that benefit women and explicitly seek to advance gender equality. The promotion of gender equality by public authorities brings benefits for the population as a whole and increases the feeling of belonging and trust in democratic institutions.
The EUROsociAL+ Programme structures its social cohesion action based on this definition of the concept: “Social cohesion is an attribute societies have that implies equal opportunities for the population to exercise their fundamental rights and ensure their well-being, without discrimination of any kind and taking into account diversity. From an individual perspective, social cohesion means the existence of persons who feel they are part of a community, participate actively in diverse areas of decision-making and are capable of exercising active citizenship. Social cohesion also implies the development of public policies and mechanisms related to solidarity between individuals, groups, territories and generations.”.
Benefits of integrating the gender perspective into social cohesion policies
To reduce and further the causes and possible solutions for inequalities between women and men, and, by extension, raise levels of social cohesion without neglecting women, public policies should include a gender perspective. More specifically, adopting such a perspective will contribute:
To reducing the deficit in the economic inclusion of women who mainly work within the informal economy and with lower productivity. The unemployment rates for women are higher than those for men, women are less represented in social protection systems and have higher rates of temporary employment. They also need higher levels of formal education to access the same job as a man, while the average wage income of women is lower than that of men (in Latin America it is 17% less).
To combat the effects derived from the “gender paradox of social cohesion” in women. This phenomenon shows that women are “the main providers of social cohesion in terms of care and forms of relationship”, and in turn, are also “those that are the most excluded from social cohesion in terms of equal opportunities, citizenship and participation”. Therefore, they assume the costs of life care by providing a necessary ‘shield’ for prevention and social protection, but do not benefit from social welfare to the same extent as the population as a whole. Social cohesion policies should take into account that “a good part of public spending is financed with the contribution of unpaid work from women.”. For there to be social cohesion, it is necessary to act on the obstacles that prevent the exercise of effective citizenship for those social profiles at a disadvantage.
Measures to enhance gender equality
Public policies need to benefit everybody equally and ensure their social integration by:
(1) Acting to promote growth that contributes well-being to a population, whose members, both women and men, develop a sense of trust and belonging to a community. This supposes the promotion of the principle of equal opportunities and non-discrimination, as well as the transformation of the asymmetric social relations that underpin different hegemonic systems of oppression, building fairer societies.
(2) Channelling the effective participation of women and contributing to what is called ‘substantive (or de facto) equality’, i.e. “people, women and men and the general population can achieve the full exercise of their rights and that these are effective in their daily lives.”. Countries should remove all obstacles in order for equality to be achieved effectively (and not only formally or de jure ) in the facts and the results, ensuring that the disadvantages associated with the situation experienced by women are not maintained.
(3) Identifying gender inequalities in each intervention context (geographical and social/cultural: country/region and the scope of incidence) and articulating a response to specific needs in order not to repeat or even increase the existing asymmetries between women and men.
See Informe de Cohesión Social, clave para reducir las desigualdades (Social Cohesion Report, key to reducing inequalities)
 Astelarra, J. (coordinator). Género y Cohesión Social (Gender and Social Cohesion). Madrid: Fundación Carolina, 2007, page 193
 Ibid. p. 13
 ECLAC average (2016). In: https://www.cepal.org/sites/default/files/news/files/nota_18_brechas_salarios.pdf
 Ibid. pages 23-24
 Op. Cit. Cohesión social en América Latina y el Caribe: una revisión perentoria de algunas de sus dimensiones (Social Cohesion in Latin America and the Caribbean: a peremptory review of some of its dimensions), page 6
 Tejiendo confianza para la cohesión social (“Building trust for social cohesion”). Madrid: EUROsociAL, 2019, pages 88-89
 Formal or de jure equality: this refers to the adoption of laws and public policies that promote equality for men and women before the law.