Gender inequalities greater than assumed

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has stated that inequalities between men and women in terms of access to employment and working conditions are greater than previously thought.

Progress in reducing them has been disappointingly slow over the past two decades, said the organization, which published the data in a new brief on Monday as the annual session of the Commission on the Condition of the woman at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

A new indicator developed by the ILO, the job gap, takes into account all unemployed people who want to find one. It paints a much grimmer picture of the situation of women in the world of work than the more commonly used unemployment rate. New data shows that women still have a much harder time finding a job than men.

According to the study entitled “New data shine light on gender gaps in the labor market”, 15% of women of working age would like to work but do not have no job, compared to 10.5% of men. This gender gap has remained virtually unchanged for two decades (2005-2022). By contrast, globally unemployment rates for women and men are very similar, as the criteria used to define unemployment tend to exclude women disproportionately.

Disparity particularly severe in developing countries

The jobs deficit is particularly serious in developing countries where the proportion of women unable to find a job reaches 24.9% in low-income countries. The corresponding rate for men in the same category is 16.6%, a worrying level but significantly lower than that of women.

The brief highlights that personal and family responsibilities, including unpaid care work, fall disproportionately on women. These activities may prevent them not only from being employed but also from actively seeking employment or being available for short-term work. You have to meet these criteria to be considered unemployed, so many women looking for work are not counted in the unemployment figures.

Gender disparities in decent work are not limited to access to employment. While vulnerable employment is prevalent for both women and men, women tend to be overrepresented in certain types of vulnerable employment. For example, women are more likely to help their household or the business of their relatives than to be self-employed.

This vulnerability, coupled with lower employment rates, has implications for women’s earnings. Globally, for every dollar of labor income earned by men, women earn only 51 cents.

According to the study, there are significant differences between regions. In low- and lower-middle-income countries, gender inequality in labor income is much worse, with women earning 33 cents and 29 cents per dollar, respectively. In high-income and upper-middle-income countries, women’s relative labor income reaches 58 and 56 cents per dollar earned by men, respectively. This striking income disparity is explained both by women’s lower level of employment and by their lower average earnings when employed.

The new estimates shed light on the extent of gender disparities in labor markets, underscoring the importance of improving women’s overall participation in employment, expanding their access to employment across professions and close the glaring job quality gaps they face.

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