Women’s access to jobs, their employment conditions and a persistent pay gap, have barely improved worldwide in nearly two decades, in a new blow for equality, according to a new report by the International Labour Organisation.
The jobs gap for women is a stubborn and damaging reality of the global Labour market but it is particularly worrying in developing countries, ILO said, with almost one in four women unable to find a job, compared with 16.6 per cent of men.
The assessment is based on a new indicator known as the Jobs Gap which captures all persons without employment that are interested in finding a job. It paints a much bleaker picture of the situation of women in the world of work than the more commonly used unemployment rate. The new data shows that women still have a much harder time finding a job than men.
According to the agency, 15 per cent of working-age women globally would like to work but do not have a job, compared with 10.5 per cent of men, whereas unemployment levels are very similar for both sexes, “because the criteria used to define unemployment tend to disproportionately exclude women”.
The jobs gap is particularly severe in developing countries where the proportion of women unable to find a job reaches 24.9 per cent. The corresponding rate for men in the same category is 16.6 per cent, a worryingly high level but significantly lower than that for women. Personal and family responsibilities, including unpaid care work, are among the reasons why women are disproportionately affected in the search for work.
The report also pointed out that women are more likely to be helping out in their households or in their relatives’ businesses rather than being in own-account work, yet these activities prevent them from not only being employed but also from actively searching for employment or being available to work at short notice.
“These activities can prevent them not only from being employed but also from actively searching for employment or being available to work at short notice,” ILO said, adding that these vulnerabilities, together with lower employment rates, take a toll on women’s earnings. “Globally, for each dollar of Labour income men earn, women earned only 51 cents.”
Significant differences exist between regions, with low and lower-middle-income countries seeing far worse gender disparity in income, with women earning 33 cents and 29 cents on the dollar, respectively. In high-income and upper-middle-income countries, women’s relative Labour income reaches 58 and 56 cents respectively per dollar earned by men.
“Gender imbalances in access to employment and working conditions are greater than previously thought, particularly in the developing world…the pace of progress is disappointingly slow,” the report added. According to the labour agency, the global unemployment rate stood at 5.8 per cent in 2022, below the average rates in the two decades before the pandemic, and it is projected to remain at that level in 2023.