Women in the global workforce

The 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61), taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 13 – 24 March, 2017, will focus on the theme of “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.” The Commission is one of the largest annual gathering of global leaders, NGOs, private sector actors, United Nations partners and activists from around the world focusing on the status of rights and empowerment of all women and girls, everywhere.

This year’s session is taking place at a critical juncture, as the world of work is changing fast, spurred by innovation, globalization and increasing human mobility. At the same time, it is adversely impacted by climate change, humanitarian crises, rising informality of labour and economic inequality. For sustainable and healthy economies, the world of work must empower women and remove the persisting inequalities that hold women back from getting on equal footing with men.

From equal pay and women’s unpaid work to decent work, removing the barriers of discrimination and investing in women’s access to digital and green economies, UN Women unpacks the key issues for women in the changing world of work.

 

The world of work is changing fast, through innovation, increasing mobility and informality. But it needs to change faster to empower women, whose work has already driven many of the global gains in recent decades.

Women still predominantly occupy jobs that pay less and provide no benefits. They earn less than men, even as they shoulder the enormous—and economically essential—burden of unpaid care and domestic work.

Realizing women’s economic empowerment requires transformative change so that prosperity is equitably shared and no one is left behind. The international community has made this commitment in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Every woman should enjoy her right to decent work. As a global champion for gender equality and women’s empowerment, UN Women asks: What do we need to get there?

EQUAL PAY FOR WOMEN

It doesn’t matter where they work or what they do. Women globally are paid less than men for the same work.

Why does the gender pay gap persist? In many countries, disparities in education have begun to close. But that’s not enough to knock down gender-based discrimination in the world of work. It keeps women out of some jobs and segregates them into others—often the lowest paying ones.

Many constraints stem from balancing paid work and family responsibilities. Inflexible working hours and limited parental leave are among the factors forcing women into part-time employment or even out of the workforce for long stretches. Some countries still mandate women to retire earlier than men.

What can we do? Call for passing and enforcing laws and regulations upholding the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. Ensure that businesses do their part to close the gender pay gap.

What can we do? Call for passing and enforcing laws and regulations upholding the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. Ensure that businesses do their part to close the gender pay gap.

CLOSE THE PARTICIPATION GAP

Record numbers of women are being paid for work. But labour force participation rates lag those of men.

Three-quarters of working-age men are in the labour force, compared to half of women, and in some regions, young women are unemployed at much higher rates than young men.

These gaps suggest that not all women who want to work can do so. Some are discouraged by gender bias. Others find no way of surmounting barriers, such as the lack of parental leave, and child and dependent care. Whatever the cause, women have a right to participate equally. The economics are compelling too—a potential boost of 28 trillion USD to global annual GDP by 2025.

What can we do? Enact paid parental leave and flexible work policies, provide child care, and encourage public and private employers to aim for gender parity at all levels of hiring.

What can we do? Call for passing and enforcing laws and regulations upholding the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. Ensure that businesses do their part to close the gender pay gap.

Jordan, 2015. Photo: UN Women/Christopher Herwig.

Jordan, 2015. Photo: UN Women/Christopher Herwig.

CLOSE THE PARTICIPATION GAP

Record numbers of women are being paid for work. But labour force participation rates lag those of men.

Three-quarters of working-age men are in the labour force, compared to half of women, and in some regions, young women are unemployed at much higher rates than young men.

These gaps suggest that not all women who want to work can do so. Some are discouraged by gender bias. Others find no way of surmounting barriers, such as the lack of parental leave, and child and dependent care. Whatever the cause, women have a right to participate equally. The economics are compelling too—a potential boost of 28 trillion USD to global annual GDP by 2025.

What can we do? Enact paid parental leave and flexible work policies, provide child care, and encourage public and private employers to aim for gender parity at all levels of hiring.

 

SHARE UNPAID CARE!

Women make a huge economic contribution that fills gaps in services. Why is it unshared and uncounted?

Cooking, cleaning, caring for children and the elderly—economies depend on such work, valued at between 10 and 39 per cent of GDP. It can contribute more to an economy than manufacturing or commerce.

Unpaid care and domestic work fills gaps in public services and infrastructure—and are largely provided by women. That’s an unfair burden and an unfair barrier to equal labour force participation and pay. Reducing these requires shifting norms around who does this work, and investing in decent, paid work in the care economy.

What can we do? Pass policies that reduce and redistribute unpaid work, such as through more paid jobs in the care economy, and encourage men to share care and domestic work. Invest in systems to provide water, electricity, transportation and other essentials that reduce household labour.

 

FOR EVERY WOMAN: DECENT WORK

Far too many women labour in informal work with little pay or protection of their rights.

Gender discrimination unfairly concentrates women in jobs as street vendors, domestic workers and subsistence farmers, among other informal occupations. For women with few skills or knowledge of their rights, or who have migrated to another country, informal jobs may be the only option to earn a living.

Informal employment typically is poorly paid. Falling outside the reach of labour laws, it can be unsafe and bereft of social benefits, such as pensions, sick pay and health insurance. Globally, 57 per cent of domestic workers have no limitations on their working hours.

What can we do? Extend social protection and minimum living wages, promote the transition to formal employment in line with ILO Recommendation No. 204, and ratify ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Workers.

 

…..to be continued.

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