Credits Photo: © UN WOMEN/ Dzilam Méndez
Published on February 20, 2023

Closing Gaps in the Social Protection of Women Workers

According to the National Survey of Occupation and Employment of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, in Mexico, there are more than 20 million women outside the labour force because they are engaged in unpaid household and care work. Also, there are more than two million domestic workers and more than 420,000 agricultural day labourers. 

The economic value of unpaid domestic and care work represents more than 26 per cent of the Mexican GDP, according to the National Accounts System for 2021. Yet, despite these women's enormous social and economic contribution, their fundamental rights continue to lag far behind.  

Access to social protection throughout the life cycle is a fundamental human right and a catalyst for sustainable development. To increase it, in line with the priorities of the Government of Mexico, the United Nations System promoted the programme "Closing Gaps: Social Protection for Women in Mexico". 

The programme was implemented between 2020 and 2022 by ILO, FAO and UN Women and was accompanied and coordinated by my office. Funded by the United Nations Joint Sustainable Development Goals Fund (UN Joint SDG Fund), the programme brought together the contributions and expertise of each agency to provide a more comprehensive and effective response to the needs of these three groups of working women while also benefiting those in need of care. 

The Closing Gaps programme allowed us to align efforts, resources and partnerships with multiple public and private actors to accelerate actions for several SDGs, including SDG 1 Poverty Reduction, SDG 5 Gender Equality and SDG 8 Decent Work.

Two years after its implementation, the programme represents a turning point for the social protection of vulnerable working women in Mexico. Closing Gaps has been recognized by the Joint SDG Fund as one of the most successful initiatives of catalytic effect for sustainable development, thanks to the effective articulation with the Government of Mexico at the federal and state level, the private sector, academia and civil society. Together, we developed policies and pilot projects to advance the achievement of the SDGs.  

Specifically, we helped lay the foundation for a National Care System. Today, we have evidence for decision-makers showing that investing in care services is economically viable and contributes to social well-being.

We also contributed to creating a permanent social security system for domestic workers and supported the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) in implementing this policy at the federal level through the pilot social security programme for domestic workers. As a result, more than 54,000 domestic workers in Mexico have been enrolled, a 700 per cent increase in the number of affiliated women. 

We strengthened the capacities of more than 1,800 key actors, including women workers and unions, who developed skills in labour rights, social protection and gender equality to improve their ability to organize and demand their rights. 

Two social protection strategies were designed for female agricultural day labourers in Jalisco and Oaxaca. As part of the partnerships developed, we contributed to establishing a collaboration agreement between the governments of these two states and between these states and the private sector to increase social protection for migrant agricultural day labourers. 

This was complemented by the #EsLoJusto campaign (It is only fair), launched together with 20 government and civil society agencies to promote domestic work as dignified employment, which generated more than 12 million impressions in social and traditional media, turning the country's attention to the rights of these women. 

Aiming at a National Care System and placing working women in vulnerable situations at the centre of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will help catalyze social and economic transformations in critical sectors. Closing Gaps offers an example of how working together, we can respond to complex challenges and move closer to delivering more effectively on the promise of leaving no one behind.