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Global Perceptions about Working Women and Attitudes of Men towards Work-Life Balance

March 13, 2017

A first-ever account of global attitudes and perceptions of women and men regards work and work-life balance was recently released in a ILO-Gallup report titled, “Towards a better future for women and work: Voices of women and men by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The results come from the Gallup World Poll which was conducted in 142 countries and territories and surveyed almost 149,000 adults. It is representative of more than 99 per cent of the global adult population.

The findings reveal a total of 70 percent of women and a similar 66 percent of men would prefer that women work at paid jobs. Each of these figures is more than double the percentages of those who would prefer women to stay at home.

Women worldwide would prefer to be either working at paid jobs (29 percent) or be in situations in which they could both work and take care of their families (41 percent), according to the joint ILO-Gallup report. Only 27 percent of women want to stay at home.

The 70 percent of women who would like to work at paid jobs notably includes a majority of women who are not in the workforce. Importantly, this is true in almost all regions worldwide, including several regions where women’s labour force participation is traditionally low, such as the Arab States and territories.

Converging Views of Men and Women around the World

Men’s views are very similar to women’s in many instances, the report showed. 28 percent of men would like women in their families to have paid jobs, 29 percent would like them to only stay at home, and 38 percent would prefer they be able to do both.

At the global level, women who are working full time for an employer (more than 30 hours a week by Gallup’s definition) are more likely to prefer situations where they can balance work and family/home obligations. Women and men with higher levels of education are also more likely to prefer that women both work at paid jobs and provide care.

“This survey clearly shows that most women and men around the globe prefer that women have paid jobs. Family-supportive policies, which enable women to remain and progress in paid employment and encourage men to take their fair share of care work, are crucial to achieving gender equality at work,” says ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.

In addition to polling people’s preferences about women and work, respondents were asked whether it was acceptable for women in their families to have paid jobs. Women were more likely than men to consider paid jobs perfectly acceptable (83 percent), while men lagged a bit behind (77 percent).

Families play a significant role in shaping these attitudes: among women in households in which it is not acceptable for women to work outside the home, about one in three would like to work at paid jobs. Worldwide, adults become slightly less likely to agree that working outside home is acceptable for women in their families if there are children younger than 15 in the household.

See: Singapore Encourages Career Opportunities for Women in Tech

Work-Life Balance: How do people feel about women who work?

Reconciling work with care for their families, however, poses a significant challenge for working women globally. In fact, both men and women in the vast majority of countries and territories surveyed mention, “balance between work and family” as one of the top problems facing women in paid jobs.

Other issues such as unfair treatment, abuse, harassment in the workplace, lack of good-paying jobs and unequal pay also emerge among the top problems in various regions of the world.

In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, many cite reasons that fall into the response category of “unfair treatment/discrimination” in the workplace (19 percent) as mention work-family balance (18 percent). In Northern, Southern and Western Europe, more mention work-family balance, but equal pay is also viewed as an important challenge.

And in Northern America, people are most likely to cite unequal pay (30 percent), followed by work-family balance (16 percent) and unfair treatment/discrimination (15 percent). In Northern Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and the Arab States, “family members do not approve of women working” is among the top five most frequently mentioned obstacles that working women face.

The obstacles that woman sees facing working women change with age. Young women between the ages of 15 and 29 are more likely than older women to mention unfair treatment, abuse or harassment at work.

Meanwhile, those between 30 and 44 are more likely than women in other age groups to mention lack of affordable care for their children and families. And, as women get older, they become more likely to mention unequal pay relative to men.

Women Earnings and Jobs: Growing equality?

Worldwide, the majority of women who are employed say what they earn is a significant source (30 percent) or main source (26 percent) of their household’s income. Men are still more likely than women to report being the main providers: 48 percent of employed men say what they earn is the main source of their household’s income.

However, among employed women and men with higher levels of education, the gap regarding their contribution to their household’s income is smaller.

Globally, women and men share similar views on women’s employment opportunities. The report found that, if a woman has similar education and experience to a man, women and men worldwide are most likely to say that she has the same opportunity to find a good job in the city or area where they live.

Worldwide, 25 percent of women and 29 percent of men say that women have better opportunities in finding good jobs. Existing evidence however, shows gender gaps in labour markets worldwide.

These attitudes vary, however, from region to region, and largely along women’s educational attainment and their level of participation in the labour force.

Worldwide, the more educated women are, the less likely they are to see better opportunities in the job market for women who are similarly qualified as men. However, men’s views on women’s opportunities do not change much with the level of their education.

“The world needs to advance gender equality and empower women at work. Not just for the benefit of women, but for the benefit of all humankind,” said Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup.

Also read: Women Career Roadblocks: Scaling Up Without Giving Up on Your Family?

Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net

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