Women Still Less Ac­tive in Labour Mar­ket Than Men - ILO

De­spite no­table progress over the past 20 years, up­dated ILO fig­ures show per­sis­tent in­equal­i­ties be­tween women and men on ac­cess to the labour mar­ket, un­em­ploy­ment and con­di­tions at work.

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Women are less likely to par­tic­i­pate in the labour mar­ket than men and are more likely to be un­em­ployed in most parts of the world, says a new study by the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ILO) re­leased on the eve of In­ter­na­tional Women's Day (marked on 8 March.)

Ac­cord­ing to the World Em­ploy­ment and So­cial Out­look: Trends for Women 2018 – Global Snap­shot, the global women's labour force par­tic­i­pa­tion rate – at 48.5 per cent in 2018 – is still 26.5 per­cent­age points be­low the rate of their male coun­ter­parts. In ad­di­tion, the global un­em­ploy­ment rate of women for 2018 – at 6 per cent – is ap­prox­i­mately 0.8 per­cent­age points higher than the rate for men. Al­to­gether, this means that for every ten men in a job, only 6 women are in em­ploy­ment.

“De­spite the progress achieved and the com­mit­ments made to fur­ther im­prove­ment, women's prospects in the world of work are still a long way from be­ing equal to men's,” said Deb­o­rah Green­field, ILO Deputy Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral for Poli­cies.

“Whether it is about ac­cess to em­ploy­ment, wage in­equal­ity or other forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion, we need to do more to re­verse this per­sis­tent, un­ac­cept­able trend by putting in place poli­cies tai­lored to women, also tak­ing into ac­count the un­equal de­mands that they face in house­hold and care re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” she added.

How­ever, the snap­shot sig­nals sig­nif­i­cant dis­par­i­ties, depend­ing on the wealth of coun­tries.

For in­stance, dif­fer­ences in un­em­ploy­ment rates be­tween women and men in de­vel­oped coun­tries are rel­a­tively small. Women even reg­is­ter lower un­em­ploy­ment rates than men in Eastern Europe and North Amer­ica.

Con­versely, in re­gions such as the Arab States and North­ern Africa, fe­male un­em­ploy­ment rates are still twice as large as men's, with pre­vail­ing so­cial norms con­tin­u­ing to ob­struct women's par­tic­i­pa­tion in paid em­ploy­ment.

An­other ex­am­ple of these dif­fer­ences is that the gap in em­ploy­ment par­tic­i­pa­tion rates be­tween men and women is nar­row­ing in de­vel­op­ing and de­vel­oped coun­tries while it con­tin­ues to widen in emerg­ing coun­tries. How­ever, this may be a re­flec­tion of the fact that a grow­ing num­ber of young women in these coun­tries have joined for­mal ed­u­ca­tion, which de­lays their en­try to the labour mar­ket.

The snap­shot also shows that women face sig­nif­i­cant gaps in the qual­ity of the em­ploy­ment they are in. For in­stance, com­pared to men, women are still more than twice as likely to be con­tribut­ing fam­ily work­ers. This means that they con­tribute to a mar­ket-ori­ented fam­ily busi­ness, but are of­ten sub­ject to vul­ner­a­ble con­di­tions of em­ploy­ment with­out writ­ten con­tracts, re­spect for labour leg­is­la­tion and col­lec­tive agree­ments.

And while in emerg­ing coun­tries the fe­male share of con­tribut­ing fam­ily work­ers has de­clined over the past decade, in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries it re­mains high, at 42 per cent of fe­male em­ploy­ment in 2018, com­pared to 20 per cent of male em­ploy­ment, with no signs of an im­prove­ment by 2021.

As a re­sult, women are still over­rep­re­sented in in­for­mal em­ploy­ment in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

These find­ings also con­firm pre­vi­ous ILO re­search that warned against sig­nif­i­cant gen­der gaps in wages and so­cial pro­tec­tion.

Look­ing at women run­ning busi­nesses, the au­thors note that glob­ally, four times as many men are work­ing as em­ploy­ers than women in 2018. Such gen­der gaps are also re­flected in man­age­ment po­si­tions, where women con­tinue to face labour mar­ket bar­ri­ers when it comes to ac­cess­ing man­age­ment po­si­tions.

“Per­sis­tent chal­lenges and ob­sta­cles for women will re­duce the pos­si­bil­ity for so­ci­eties to de­velop path­ways for eco­nomic growth with so­cial devel­op­ment. Clos­ing gen­der gaps in the world of work thus should re­main a top pri­or­ity if we want to achieve gen­der equal­ity and em­power all women and girls by 2030,” con­cluded Damian Grimshaw, Di­rec­tor of the ILO Re­search Depart­ment.

A fe­male worker

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