Closing the gap could take 70 years

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder
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ILO report: Women face underemployment, gender inequality

By Staff Writer

In efforts to find better jobs and establish gender equality, women working in Caribbean nations have to overcome underemployment and employment gaps of as high as 13 percent between women and men, according to a report released May 19 by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as part of its Women at Work Centenary Initiative. If current trends prevail, the report estimates it will take more than 70 years to completely close wage gender gaps between men and women.

As part of ILO’s initiative it studied women’s employment in 178 countries and published ‘Women at Work: Trends 2016.’ The report shows the employment gender gap between men and women are larger in the Caribbean than in other parts of the world. It defines informal employment as working short hours against their choice. ILO research found women are much more likely to be underemployed than men.

Despite modest gains in some regions in the world, ILO’s 138-page shows that millions of women around the world are losing ground in their quest for equality in the world of work. It shows large gender gaps in the Caribbean where women cannot work or are underemployed due to household and child-rearing responsibilities.

“The report shows the enormous challenges women continue to face in finding and keeping decent jobs,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder explained. “Our actions must be immediate, effective and far-reaching. There is no time to waste. The 2030 Agenda is an opportunity to pool our efforts and develop coherent, mutually supporting policies for gender equality.”
The ILO theme for International Women’s Day 2016 is ‘Getting to Equal by 2030: The Future is Now,’ reflects the urgency of addressing these gaps if the “U.N. 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda” is to be achieved. Nearly all of the agenda’s goals have a gender component.

The report is also an important contribution to ILO’s Women at Work Centenary Initiative. The Initiative marks the commitment of ILO constituents to gender equality as the ILO approaches its centenary in 2019, and is geared toward identifying innovative action that could give new impetus to the ILO’s work on gender equality and non-discrimination.

“Achieving gender equality at work, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is an essential precondition for realizing sustainable development that leaves no one behind and ensures that the future of work is decent work for all women and men,” said Shauna Olney, Chief of ILO’s Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch.

The 2030 Agenda represents a universal consensus on the crucial importance of gender equality and its contribution to the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. More jobs – and quality jobs – for women, universal social protection and measures to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care and household work are indispensable to delivering on the new transformative agenda.

World-wide data gathered

‘Women at Work: Trends 2016,’examined data for 178 countries and concludes that inequality between women and men persists across a wide spectrum of the global labour market. What’s more, the report shows that over the last two decades, significant progress made by women in education hasn’t translated into comparable improvements in their position at work.

On a global level, the employment gender gap has closed by only 0.6 percentage points since 1995, with an employment-to-population ratio of 46 per cent for women and almost 72 per cent for men in 2015.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, female participation in the labour force increased from 44.5 percent in 1995 to 52.6 percent in 2015. Among the determinants of higher female participation in the labour market, improved education and health factors – including decreasing fertility – are likely to have played a major role.

In the Caribbean, women remain over-represented as contributing family workers or in occupations (such as domestic workers) that are more likely to be in informal work arrangements, preventing their access to social protection.

Progress in lessening unemployment

In the Caribbean and Latin America, the gap in unemployment, having widened over the period 1995-2000, has narrowed since the early 2000s. These countries have made progress since the early 2000s in reducing unemployment rates, which were estimated at 5.4 percent for men and 8.1 percent for women in 2015. These improvements have been made possible by an increasing participation of women who benefitted from strong job demand to shift from inactivity to employment.

Levels of youth unemployment (15-24 years of age) continue to be of concern. Globally, unemployment affects young women more than young men.

One-half of all young women and men had at least one other labour market experience beyond the first job before gaining their current stable of satisfactory jobs.

Women work shorter hours

Generally, women are more likely to work shorter hours for pay or profit. Globally, women represent less than 40 percent of total employment, but make up 57 percent of those working on a part time basis. Overall, the gender gap for part-time employment between women and men in employment is 10.8 percentage points. The gender gap in Caribbean countries average 20 percent or more above the norm.

In the Caribbean and Latin America, the services sector is highly female-dominated, with a 25.3 percent difference between men’s and women’s shares of employment The report suggests the high share of women in the services sector is partially explained by the significance of domestic work as a source of employment.

Fewer benefits for women

Women are less well covered by pension arrangements. Lower rates of formal wage and salaried employment, together with fewer hours or fewer years worked; result in careers that are shorter for women than for men. This has adverse consequences for seniority premiums in pay and for coverage by employment-related contributory schemes, and also for female pension levels.

In 2015, across the world, 586 million women were working as own-account and contributing family workers across the world. As globally, the share of those who work in a family enterprise (contributing family workers) has decreased significantly among women (by 17.0 percentage points over the last 20 years) and to a lesser extent among men (by 8.1 percentage points), the global gender gap in contributing family work is reduced to 11 percentage points.

Although 52.1 per cent of women and 51.2 per cent of men in the labour market are wage and salaried workers, this in itself constitutes no guarantee of higher job quality. Globally, 38 per cent of women and 36 per cent of men in wage employment do not contribute to social protection. The proportions for women reach 63.2 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and 74.2 per cent in Southern Asia where informal employment is the dominant form of employment.

The report also provides new data for up to 100 countries on paid and unpaid working hours and access to maternity protection and pensions.

Women work longer hours

Women continue to work longer hours per day than men in both paid and unpaid work. In both high and lower income countries, on average, women carry out at least two-and-a-half times more unpaid household and care work than men. In developed economies, employed women (either in self-employment or wage and salaried employment) work 8 hours and 9 minutes in paid and unpaid work, compared to 7 hours and 36 minutes worked by men.
In developing economies, women in employment spend 9 hours and 20 minutes in paid and unpaid work, whereas men spend 8 hours and 7 minutes in such work. The unbalanced share of unpaid work limits women’s capacity to increase their hours in paid, formal and wage and salaried work. As a result, across the world, women, who represent less than 40 per cent of total employment, make up 57 per cent of those working shorter hours and on a part-time basis.

In addition, across more than 100 countries surveyed, more than one third of employed men (35.5 per cent) and more than one fourth of employed women (25.7 per cent) work more than 48 hours a week. This also affects the unequal distribution of unpaid household and care work between women and men.

The cumulative disadvantage faced by women in the labour market has a significant impact in later years. In terms of pensions, coverage (both legal and effective) is lower for women than men, leaving an overall gender social protection coverage gap. Globally, the proportion of women above retirement age receiving a pension is on average 10.6 percentage points lower than that of men.

Globally, women represent nearly 65 per cent of people above retirement age (60-65 or older according to national legislation in the majority of countries) without any regular pension. This means some 200 million women in old age are living without any regular income from an old age or survivor’s pension, compared to 115 million men.

Other report highlights

In developed countries, women spend on average 4 hours and 20 minutes on unpaid care work per day, compared to 2 hours and 16 minutes by men. In developing countries, women spend 4 hours and 30 minutes per day on unpaid care work, compared to 1 hour 20 minutes for men. Although this gender gap remains substantial, it has decreased in a number of countries, mostly due to the reduction in time spent on housework by women, but not to significant reductions in their time spent on childcare.

In terms of wages, the results in the report confirm previous ILO estimates that globally, women still earn on average 77 percent of what men earn. The report notes that this wage gap cannot be explained solely by differences in education or age. This gap can be linked to the undervaluation of the work women undertake and of the skills required in female-dominated sectors or occupations, discrimination, and the need for women to take career breaks or reduce hours in paid work to attend to additional care responsibilities such as child care.

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