Achieving societal progress through increasing women’s employment opportunities
This article largely draws on a special report on “Women and work” published in the 26 November 2011 edition of The Economist and on a recently published report by the OECD Development Centre: “Perspectives on Global Development 2012: Social Cohesion in a Shifting World” (PGD). It focuses on women’s relationship with employment and looks at how, by including women better in the labour market, they are also better included in society in general and therefore they are better able to participate to the creation of cohesive societies.
Table of Contents
Setting the scene with some key facts
- In developed countries, women spend on average 33 hours a week on unpaid work, against 16 hours for men.The Economist, Female labour markets: The cashier and the carpenter, men and men do different jobs for different pay, 26.11.2011
- Women run about a third of small businesses in developed countries, but they tend to be smaller, generate fewer jobs and have a lower turnover.
- Almost all developed countries provide paid maternity leave, averaging about 20 weeks , The United States is a notable exception.The Economist, Work and family: Baby blues, a juggler’s guide to having it all, 26.11.2011
- In 2010, women held only 3.2% of all executive board seats in Germany’s 200 biggest non-financial firms; in Portugal , the figure amounts to less than 1%.The Economist, Too many suits and not nearly enough skirts in the boardrooms, 26.11.2011
- On the contrary, China has a higher proportion of women I the top layers of management than many Western countries: 7 of the 14 women on the 2010 Forbes worldwide list of self-made billionaires were from China; however, most Chinese men still expect women to look after the household, and such attitudes are difficult to shift.The Economist, Women in China, The sky’s the limit but it’s not exactly heaven, 26.11.2011
- Women on average hold about 20% of the seats in parliaments across the world; however, overall, the world has noticed a rise in women leaders: Angela Merkel in Germany , Dilma Rousseff in Brazil , Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Liberia , and more.The Economist, Looking ahead, Here’s to the next half-century, it’s taking a long time but things are getting better, 26.11.2011
Opportunities for women…
According to the “Perspectives on Global Development 2012: Social Cohesion in a Shifting World”, the nature of women’s participation in the labour force has changed over the last two decades due to greater female education, declining fertility and growing urbanisation.2012 Perspectives on Global Development, Part 1, Chapter 3, p. 74 There are now more women that are university-educated than men.The Economist, Closing the Gap: Women have made huge progress in the workplace, but still get lower pay and far fewer top jobs than men, 26.11.2011 This is true even in developing countries.The Economist, A world of blue stockings, Women are now more highly educated than men, but they don’t get the jobs to match, 26.11.2011
Women are also increasingly being given more attention to: in Europe, some countries have imposed quotas to get more women on company boards, and organisations such as the United Nations , the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development or the World Bank are pushing gender equality forward.
Indeed, why wouldn’t half of the talent pool be included?
Not only women’s presence has been positively correlated, in several studies, with a company’s performance and higher profits – but having women in teams of leaders also add diversity of experiences, which is likely to lead to more new and original ideas. Another reason is that as populations are ageing, including more women in the labour force is essential to tackle the decline of the workforce. And finally, isn’t progress all about inclusiveness and equal opportunities for everyone – including women?
…but discrimination against women persists
In developing countries, there are fewer women in the labour force in countries with high levels of discrimination. The average female labour force participation rate for high discrimination converging countries is 37%, compared to 53% for the other countries.2012 Perspectives on Global Development, Chapter 3, pp.74-75 In addition, women tend to work in informal employment and in specific sectors with low pay such as manufacturing, or as unpaid family workers. The gender pay gap remains an issue, for example in Brazil a woman with more than 13 years of schooling would receive only 66.4% of the wages of a man with a similar level of education. Such discrimination should be fought to increase women’s sense of belonging to society by ensuring greater labour market mobility civic participation for them.2012 Perspectives on Global Development, Part 2, Chapter 8, p. 216
Links with social cohesion
There are many definitions of social cohesion. The definition used in the 2012 Perspectives on Global Development states:
“a society is “cohesive” if it works towards the well-being of all its members, fights exclusion and marginalisation, creates a sense of belonging, promotes trust, and offers its members the opportunity of upward social mobility.”2012 Perspectives on Global Development, Chapter 2, p. 53
This entails addressing inequalities that are motivated by group identity (including those between different ethnic groups and between men and women). Further, “increased female labour force participation on an equal footing with men is unequivocally one of the most positive ways to reduce income inequality”.2012 Perspectives on Global Development, Part 2, p. 127
What can be done?
A few proposals are made by The Economist: enabling laws providing for equal pay for men and women, enabling both maternity and paternity leave, adapting school hours so that both parents can work.In the PGD 2012, it is suggested to include women in all spheres of public life, both in political and economic participation. Quotas as well as a deeper change in Social Institutions and Gender Index#What are social institutions.3F, attitudes and norms are suggested measures. Further, it is argued that governments should give adequate space to citizens to exercise their voice in order to provide the necessary conditions to foster social cohesion, and this includes an emphasis on minorities and women.2012 Perspectives on Global Development, Chapter 7, p. 203 Other solutions proposed within the context of discriminatory social institutions include:
- Securing Access to property and inheritance rights to enhance women’s productive activities and decision-making power. Results show that when such rights are secured, women feel more secure and can be productive members of society as a whole
- Using conditional cash transfers to help retain girls in primary and secondary school, and therefore help improve their health outcomes and make them benefit from the same education opportunities as boys
- Changing gender stereotypes through teaching material and the media
- Increasing women’s Access to bank loans so that women can start small businesses or can become entrepreneurs more easily.
Equal chances for men and women and a better integration of women into the economy would not only support a cohesive society but also contribute to sustained growth in the long run, and overall societal progress.
- Gender Equality in employment, education and entrepreneurship
- Gender Equality and Decent Work
- Debate on Gender Quotas
- Quotas for women in the boardroom
- Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
- Gender Differences in Employment in the Gender Equality in the United Kingdom
- ILO Instruments on Labour Standards concerning Women Workers
Other progress-related articles
- See [Wikigender Progress Series|Wikigender Progress Series]
- Official Website to get the Perspectives on Global Development 2012 report
- The Economist, Special Report: Women and work, 26 November 2011
- The Economist: “This House believes that a woman’s place is at work” – from 7 to 16 December 2011“>Join the live debate by The Economist: “This House believes that a woman’s place is at work” – from 7 to 16 December 2011