Gender equality is one of the most important elements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that guide the work of all the institutions of the United Nations system. As recognized by SDG 5 (achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. In particular, as discussed in this edition of the report prepared jointly by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), equal access to the labour market by men and women does not necessarily mean equal rates of participation; rather, if rates of female labour participation are lower, it means ensuring that this is the result of genuine preferences and not of cultural conditions, expressions of unequal power among household members, market restrictions or other limiting factors.
Access to the paid labour market is related to women’s autonomy in the broadest sense. Economic autonomy is a cornerstone of women’s personal development and, by definition, requires women to receive enough income to overcome poverty and have enough free time for training, entry into the labour market, personal and professional development, active participation in society and caring for loved ones without it becoming a barrier to realizing their own aspirations.