The State of World Population 2017 : Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality
Home » The State of World Population 2017 : Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality
United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA
Geographic Area: 
Year Published: 
Funded By: 
United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA
Type of research: 

•To highlight the issue of inequality and failure to protect the rights of poorest women and related to undermine peace and world’s development goals.
•To highlight the issue of intersection of inequality in women’s reproductive health and rights and economic inequality.


The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has released the 2017 edition of its State of World Population report that discusses the interrelationship between reproductive health and inequality in the economic situation in five chapters as follows:

  • Inequality in health and rights
  • The intersection of inequality in women’s health and rights and economic inequality
  • The costs of inequality
  • Towards equality by reaching the furthest behind first
  • Inclusion within reach: actions for a more equal world.

Highlights of the report:

  • In developing countries, limited access to sexual and reproductive health services and negative health outcomes correlate strongly with poverty. For the poor women, their poor sexual and reproductive health can block opportunities, blunt their potential and solidify their position at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.
  • Although access to services and reproductive health outcomes correlate with whether a woman is on the top or the bottom of the wealth scale in any given country, numerous social, institutional, political, geographic and economic forces are also at play. Reproductive health inequalities are deeply affected by the quality and reach of health systems and by gender inequality, which can have a profound impact on how much control a woman has over her own sexual and reproductive health. Overcoming these obstacles and addressing underlying gender inequality are critical to progress in reducing inequalities in sexual and reproductive health, and may lead to progress in reducing Economic inequalities.
  • Economic inequality reinforces and is reinforced by other inequalities, including those in women’s health, where only a privileged few are able to control their fertility, and, as a result, can develop skills, enter the paid labor force and gain economic power.
  • The costs of inequalities, including in sexual and reproductive health and rights, could extend to the entire global community’s goals.
  • Inequalities in sexual and reproductive health correlate with economic inequality: women in the poorest wealth quintile of developing countries generally have least access to services essential for exercising their rights to prevent pregnancy, stay healthy during pregnancy and deliver safely.
  • Expanding access to sexual and reproductive health services is only half of the solution. The other half depends on how well we address the other dimensions of inequality that hold women, particularly the poor, back from realizing their rights and ambitions, and living their lives on an equal footing to men.

The report outlines 10 actions that countries can take to create a more equal world:

  1. Meet all commitments and obligations to human rights agreed in international treaties and conventions;
  2. Tear down barriers that prevent young women from accessing sexual and reproductive health information and services;
  3. Reach the poorest women with essential, life-saving antenatal and maternal health care;
  4. Meet all unmet need for family planning, prioritizing women in the poorest 40 per cent of households;
  5. Provide a universal social protection floor, offering basic income security and covering essential services, including maternity-related benefits and support;
  6. Bolster services, such as childcare, to enable women to enter or remain in the paid labour force;
  7. Adopt progressive policies aimed at accelerated income growth among the poorest 40 per cent, including through stepped-up human capital investments in girls and women;
  8. Eliminate obstacles to girls’ access to secondary and higher education, and to their enrolment in courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics;
  9. Accelerate the transition from informal jobs to formal, decent work – focusing first on sectors with large concentrations of poor, female workers – and unblock women’s access to credit and property ownership; and
  10. Work towards measuring all dimensions of inequality and how they influence each other, and strengthen links between data and public policy.