Gender is rarely used as a differentiating lens by which to understand more fully the various experiences and ramifications of the social protection agenda. This paper takes as its starting point the overwhelming evidence that women occupy a disadvantaged status in relation to work opportunities when compared to men from equivalent social groups, and that they are also far more likely to be excluded from the sphere of social protection strategies. It is thought that female exclusion from such strategies is due to three main factors:
– an increasing casualization and feminization of the labour force;
– life cycle events; and
– gender-neutral effects that are likely to more severely impact women.
Adapting the idea of a hierarchy of social protected labour, it is believed that the extent that gender-related vulnerabilities are experienced is intimately related to the location in which workers find themselves in the labour market. This concept is further enhanced by the specific constraints that they experience as women and by gender biases in the institutional environment. Thus, attempts to extend social protection must first analyse the composition of the labour market within any one country and its relation to social protection.
A variety of successful social protection programmes and experiences are evaluated with the aim of recommending ways to extend social protection, in particular to women of working age. Based on commonalities that we identify across successful social protection programmes, it is recommended that future efforts to extend social protection initiatives should take these factors into account. Furthermore, due to lack of data and comprehensive research, impact evaluations on the range of social protection programmes for women need to be conducted.