Discrimination against women in social services

Other Names:
Active prejudice against women by welfare services

Discrimination against women in social services arises in matters of social security, old age and widows' pensions, health benefits, and taxation, as well as in general dependency considerations, such as the legal requirement for the husband's permission (in the case of married women) or the father's permission (in the case of minors) to take advantage of certain public services: for example, the opening of a bank account. Laws are based on functions; and because a woman's functions change, she may lose out on benefits, such as insurance. Allocations in case of illness, accident or occupational disease are lower to women than to men, as they are usually established on the basis of marital status; pensions are usually less; and there is a shortage of institutions to care for the children of working mothers.


Existing welfare systems differ significantly among countries and do not treat women in the same way. The levels and quality of protection, as well as the premises on which the entitlements are granted, that is "individual" entitlements or those "derived" (from status), differ. Major variations by social regime in western societies are: 1. liberal regime, with market patriarchalism and a residual welfare state, such as in the USA; 2. "Nordic" social-democratic regime with egalitarian policies; 3. conservative regime with welfare state patriarchalism and an institutional welfare state of Germany or Austria; and 4) the "Latin-Rim" type country with agrarian/clerical patriarchalism and elementary welfare systems, such as in Greece or Spain, where a high proportion of people is not eligible for benefits. Except for the Nordic model in some areas, none of these regimes allows women to combine a career with a balanced family life.

Within countries there are numerous instances of differing treatment for sexes, for example in state and in many privately-run pension schemes. A difference in the legal retirement age, for example 60 for women and 65 for men, that employers can insist that female employees retire five years earlier than men. There is the problem of survivors benefit: although most pension schemes automatically provide a pension for a widow of a male employee, fewer than half provide the same for the widower of a female employee. Just as important, is that the whole structure of pension schemes discriminates against the pattern of most women's working lives, where there is often a break, mostly a long one, to bring up a family. Certain rights to benefits of unemployment, old age and invalidity are also denied to women because they obtain protection as a dependent person. In reality, some 35% of households in the world are now headed by women. But the man is considered the head of the family while the woman brings up the children and her professional activity is considered incidental.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST