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Social norms continue to undermine women’s role in workforce

Female Afghan National Army (ANA) officers march during their graduation ceremony at the Kabul Military Training Centre August 24, 2014. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: MILITARY) - RTR43IDW

By Anna Pujol-Mazzini

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The share of women in the labour market globally is not increasing even though most females want paid work, according to a major report on employment trends.

Social norms of what a woman’s role should be, as well as practical obstacles such as a lack of childcare and transport to get to work are holding women back, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said.

Nearly half of the world’s working age women have a job or are looking for one, compared to 76 percent of men, a gap that has hardly narrowed in the past decade and is not expected to change between now and 2021, the U.N. agency said in an annual report on women’s employment trends late on Wednesday.

“Women have trouble accessing the labour market in the first instance but when they do enter it they have more difficulty in finding a job,” Steven Tobin, a lead author of the report, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“When they do find a job they are concentrated in certain occupations and don’t have the same opportunities for quality employment as men,” he added.

The Middle East, North Africa and South Asia had the lowest rates of women in paid work and they were mostly confined to jobs in education, social work and agriculture, the report said.

Worldwide, 70 percent of women and 66 percent of men would prefer that women work at paid jobs, the ILO said in March. []

The report also said reducing gender inequality in the labour market could create jobs for an additional 189 million people globally, and boost the world’s economy by nearly six trillion dollars by 2025.

“Some of the obstacles women are facing are viewed as a cost, but helping women into the labour market can bring significant revenue,” Tobin said.

“It’s an investment rather than a cost,” he added.

The gender wage gap globally was estimated at 23 percent, meaning on average women earn 77 percent of what men earn, according to ILO data.


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