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Women Still Less Likely to Participate in the Labour Market than Men: ILO

March 12, 2018

The latest study conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) revealed that despite notable progress in women employment over the past 20 years, there remains inequalities between women and men on access to the unemployment and better conditions at work. The report, released on the eve of International Women’s Day (8 March), found that women are less likely to be in the labour market than men and are more likely to be unemployed in most parts of the world.

According to the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends for Women 2018, this year global women’s labour force participation rate is at 48.5 percent, which is still 26.5 percentage points lower than the rate of their male counterparts. Meanwhile, the global unemployment rate for women is at 6 percent in 2018, suggesting approximately 0.8 percentage points higher than that of men’s. Altogether, this figure could mean that for every ten men in a job, only 6 women are in employment.

Regarding to the findings, ILO Deputy Director-General for Policies Deborah Greenfield said that despite the progress and commitments to make further improvement, women’s position in the workforce is still a long way from being equal to men’s. “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 global snapshot suggests significant disparities attributed to the wealth of countries. For example, differences in unemployment rates between women and men in the developed countries are relatively small. Women in in Eastern Europe and North America even register lower unemployment than men. On the other hand, in regions such as the Arab States and Northern Africa, female unemployment rates are still twice as large as men’s, which is largely due to the prevailing social norms that continue to limit women’s participation in paid employment.

See: Be Cool, But Also Be Warm: How Should Women Conduct Themselves at Work?

Besides the overall participation, the study also noted the gaps women face in the quality of the employment. For example, compared to men, women are still more than twice as likely to be contributing family workers. This means that majority still work at a market-oriented family business, but are often subject to unfair treatment such as not given written contracts, respect for labour legislation, and collective agreements.

While the female share of contributing family workers in emerging countries has shown a declining trend over the past decade, the number remains high in developing countries. 42 percent female are employed in this sector, compared to 20 percent male, with no signs of improvement by the next five years. Consequently, women are still overrepresented in informal employment in developing countries. These findings confirm previous ILO research that warned against significant gender gaps in wages and social protection.

When it comes to women running businesses, globally four time as many men are working as employers than women in 2018. Such gender gaps in leadership are also reflected in management positions, where women continue to suffer from discrimination and face labour market barriers.

“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.

Read also: Women in the Workforce: How to Treat Female Employees at Work

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