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Many women work for a pittance: report

Although women's number at the workforce has increased, they are being employed at low-productivity, low-paid and vulnerable jobs with no social protection, basic rights or voice at work, says an ILO report.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2008 04:09 PM IST

A large number of women work with low salaries and without any social protection, says a new report of International Labour Organisation.

"More women are working than ever before, but they are also more likely than men to get low-productivity, low-paid and vulnerable jobs, with no social protection, basic rights or voice at work," the ILO report issued for International Womens Day says.

"Global employment trends for women - March 2008", says that the number of employed women grew by almost 200 million over the last decade, to reach 1.2 billion in 2007 compared to 1.8 billion men. However, the number of unemployed women also grew from 70.2 to 81.6 million over the same period.

"Women continue to enter the world's workforce in great numbers. This progress must not obscure the glaring inequities that still exist in workplaces throughout the world," said ILO Director General Juan Somavia.

"The workplace and the world of work are at the centre of global solutions to address gender equality and the advancement of women in society. By promoting decent work for women, we are empowering societies and advancing the cause of economic and social development for all," said Somavia.

The report also shows improvement in the status of women in labour markets throughout the world but they have not substantially narrowed gender gap in the workplace. The other key findings of the reports are worldwide the female unemployment rate stood at 6.4 per cent compared to the male employment rate of 5.7 per cent.

Less than 70 women are economically active for every 100 men globally. Remaining outside the labour force is often not a choice but an imposition. It is likely that women would opt for remunerative work outside home if it became acceptable to do so, revealed in the report.

At the global level, the female employment-to-population ratio which indicates how much economies are able to take advantage of the productive potential of their working age population was 49.1 per cent in 2007 compared to a male employment-to-population ratio of 74.3 per cent, says the new report.

Over the past decade, the services sector has overtaken agriculture as the prime employer of women. In 2007, 36.1 per cent of employed women worked in agriculture and 46.3 per cent in services. In comparison, male sectoral shares were 34.0 per cent in agriculture and 40.4 per cent in services. The report also indicates that more women are gaining access to education, but equality in education is still far from reality in some regions.

The report points out that for many women, moving away from "vulnerable employment" into wage and salaried work can be a major step toward economic freedom and self-determination.

And that the poorer the region, the greater the likelihood that women remain among the ranks of the contributing family workers or own-account workers. Access to labour markets and to decent and productive employment is crucial in the process of creating greater equality between men and women, says the report.

The study observes that the most successful region in terms of economic growth over the last decade - East Asia is also the region with the highest employment-to-population ratio for women (65.2 per cent), low unemployment rates for both women and men and relatively small gender gaps in sectoral as well as status distribution.

Overall, the report says that policies to enhance women's chances to participate equally in labour markets are starting to pay off, but the sluggish pace of change means that disparities are still significant.

Most regions have still a long way to go in full economic integration of women and realizing their untapped potential for economic development.

Broadening access for women to employment in an enlarged scope of industries and occupations will be important to enhancing opportunities for them in the labour market, says the report.

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