Women face an increased risk of poverty as a result of the current labour market trends and the changes in the composition of the family. Women are more likely to be the "working poor" than men, providing the chief supply of low-level and low-pay jobs and atypical employment. 70 percent of the world's 1.2 billion poor are women. Since 1975, the number of women living in extreme poverty has grow by 50 percent, while the number of men in the same condition increased by 30 percent.
Women are also more likely than men to be a lone parent bringing up children or to be an elderly person living alone. Poverty eradication strategies have often had a limited impact on improving women's situation since they are primarily concerned with the monetized economy and tend to target men directly as breadwinner. Household resources are often not equally shared within the family which seems to explain why poverty affects women in a different way than men. As a family gets poorer, the proportion of male income devoted to the family remains constant, while that of women actually increases.
This strategic objective formed part of the Platform for Action of the United Nations Fourth World Conference for Women (Beijing, 1995). Actions to counteract the feminization of poverty are:
1. Developing measures to identify groups of women in poverty and studies aimed at establishing patterns of the flows of women in and out of poverty and exclusion situations;
2. Supporting changes to the social safety net in order to reach women in poverty directly;
3. Stopping the deterioration of public health programmes and supporting the improvement of reproductive, maternity and child-care services;
4. Developing training and education programmes for women working at the lowest end of the labour market.
In 1995 the USA announced its donation of US$1000 million to poor women in underdeveloped countries through a ten-year assistance programme organized primarily through women's NGOs.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is the largest source of assistance within the UN system to projects involving and benefiting poor women in developing countries. Well over half of WFP development assistance directly supports women's economic advancement.
Poor reproductive health is as much a danger to families as a loss of a crop or loss of income.