Global Employment Trends for Women, 2009
The following is an excerpt from the Introduction to the ILO’s Global Employment Trends for Women Report, March, 2009.
Global Employment Trends for Women, (March, 2009) reconfirms that gender inequality remains an issue within labour markets globally. Women suffer multiple disadvantages in terms of access to labour markets, and often do not have the same level of freedom as men to choose to work. Gender differences in labour force participation rates and unemployment rates are a persistent feature of global labour markets. In 2008, an estimated 6.3 per cent of the world’s female labour force was not working but looking for work, up from 6.0 per cent in 2007, while the corresponding rate for males was 5.9 per cent in 2008, up from 5.5 per cent in 2007.
Women also face constraints in terms of sectors of economic activity in which they would like to work and working conditions to which they aspire. Women are overrepresented in the agricultural sector, and if the more industrialized regions are excluded, almost half of female employment can be found in this sector alone. Women are also often in a disadvantaged position in terms of the share of vulnerable employment (i.e. unpaid family workers and own-account workers) in total employment. These workers are most likely to be characterized by insecure employment, low earnings and low productivity. Those women who are able to secure the relative comfort of wage and salaried employment are often not receiving the same remuneration as their male counterparts.
Gender wage differentials may be due to a variety of factors, including crowding of women in low paying industries and differences in skills and work experience, but may also be the result of discrimination. Given the constraints women are facing, promoting gender equality and empowering women is not only an important goal of the Millennium Declaration in itself,1 it is also pivotal to achieving the new target on full and productive employment and decent work for all, and virtually all remaining goals and targets.
By the end of 2008, working poverty, vulnerable employment and unemployment were beginning to rise as the effects of the economic slowdown spread. With the deepening of the recession in 2009, the global jobs crisis is expected to worsen sharply. Furthermore, we can expect that for many of those who manage to keep a job, earnings and other conditions of employment will deteriorate. The impact of the crisis will be felt by both men and women, but not necessarily in the same manner. This report presents alternative scenarios for selected labour market indicators in 2008 and 2009 in order to illustrate the effect on gender differentials in labour markets on the basis of changes in the economic environment.
A distinction should be made between the continued disadvantaged position of women in global labour markets, and the immediate impact of the current economic crisis. In developed economies, there are signals that the crisis may be at least as detrimental for men as for women, and possibly more so. This is suggested by the stronger increase of the unemployment rate in developed economies for men compared to women in 2008 (1.1 percentage points for men versus 0.8 points for women). This report highlights some factors at the country level that influence the gender impact in developed economies, as well as the variation in country experiences.
Access to full and productive employment and decent work is crucial for all, and decent work deficits are the primary cause of poverty and social instability. The trends summarized in this report are therefore extremely worrying for both women and men, and serve to highlight the continued importance of an internationally coordinated effort to stop the slowdown and start the global economy onto a much more sustainable path.
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