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Fridays Academy: Gender and the Labor Market

Ignacio Hernandez's picture

This Friday we finish this section on "Gender and the Labor Market" with a brief summary of what we have seen in previous weeks.  Next Friday we will start "Gender Budgeting". As usual, from Raj Nallari and Breda Griffith's lecture notes.



During the last few weeks we have examined gender inequalities in the labor market. First a number of reasons were considered for why gender inequality exists especially in the labor market.  Issues regarding specialization and segmentation, women’s reproductive role and wage gaps were noted.  We went on to exam the progress being made in the world of work by women by focusing on the indicators of labor market performance – the labor force participation ratio, the unemployment rate, wage rates, and skills. We concluded by examining two measures of labor market performance – employment by sector and the status of employment. Data disaggregated by gender on the latter indicator has only recently been made publicly available.  


The female labor force participation ratio has increased and the gap between the female and male labor-force participation ratio has narrowed. The two most recent years for which data are available, 2005 and 2006 indicate a fall in the labor-force participation ratio but this has been attributed to inter alia the increasing numbers of young women in education and the increasing representation of older women in the labor force.  At the regional level, the story is less clear – in some regions, the gap between male and female labor force participation ratio has narrowed, whereas in others, typically poorer regions, the gap has increased.  


Inequalities continue to mark the education figures – two thirds of the 800 million adults who have not learnt to read and write are women and 60 percent of school drop-outs are girls.  As noted, access to basic education is not a predicator of better employment opportunities to come. One of the main indicators to assess the progress toward MDG3 is school enrollment rates for males and females. While parity has all but been achieved for primary enrolment, significant gaps remain in secondary enrollment between boys and girls.  


Globally in 2006 women had a higher likelihood of being unemployed and the rate represented an increase from that prevailing in 1996. Gender disparity also prevails for male and female youth unemployment, generally higher than adult unemployment. For five of the regions considered, female youth unemployment was higher than male.  The caveats associated with unemployment figures were outlined and a further measure – the employment to population ratio – was considered to shed greater insight to the unemployment variable. According to the employment to population ratio, women’s productive potential, in all regions of the world, is underused. Only half of working age women (aged 15 and higher) work compared to more than 7 out of ten men.  


A number of reasons have been put forward for why gender inequalities in wages exist and persist.  The European Commission suggests that the pay gap between men and women stands at 15 percent for all sectors and years.  Globalization has contributed to an improvement in wages in low-skilled occupations but to a widening gender gap in wages among high skilled occupations in developing economies where men are more highly represented.  Lack of comparable cross-country data and insufficient data in general make research difficult.  It is suggested that differences in bargaining power and the different obligations the sexes face may account for wage inequalities. Segmentation in the labor market and the clustering of women in low-paid jobs is another reason. The consequences of persistent wage differentials may be reflected in lower female labor force participation currently and in the future as parents may under-invest in their daughter’s education compared to their sons. 

We concluded by examining the evidence for “decent and productive employment and the progress being made by women in the world of work”. Two indicators were used. The first, sectoral shares of employment indicated that in 2006 agriculture was no longer the primary sector of employment for women. As an economy develops, we would expect to see a move out of agriculture into industrial and service employment. At the regional level, women have a higher share of agricultural employment compared to men in most regions except Latin America and the Caribbean and non-EU and CIS countries.  In industrial employment, women are under-represented compared to men and in services, both men and women have increased their share of service employment. It would be nice to know, however, the type of service jobs that are being created and the gender take-up of these jobs.  Furthermore, the whole issue of who owns the land influences how we view the agricultural numbers. Most landowners are men and women also face discrimination in their access to land having less secure tenure rights. Finally gender inequality in status of employment was examined. Status of employment distinguishes between three different categories of worker – wage and salary workers, self-employed workers and contributing family workers. Moving from a contributing family worker to a self-employed worker to a waged and salaried worker represents a major step forward for women in terms of freedom and self-determination.  The trends suggest that women have made progress in the world of work, globally at least. At the regional level, the evidence is mixed, with contributing family workers in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and the Pacific and South Asia being the dominant ‘employer’.  A second indicator in assessing MDG3 is the share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector. This has improved world-wide but the increases need to be treated with caution – to be truly conclusive we would need to know what the underlying base figures are. In some countries, the proportion of women in theses sectors may be a small proportion of the total labor force. Thus a large proportionate increase is not saying much.


Submitted by nakliyat on
Very good article thank you...

Submitted by rose caprio on
labour means to work hard and earn work hard one should attain the age of 18yrs. or above otherwise he will be considered as child labour which is against govt. rule.

Submitted by rose caprio on
education is the essential part of ones life which cannot be neglected.neglecting edu. will led to unemployment one day and next comes the poverty.

Submitted by rose caprio on
unemployment rate in India is increasing day by day.unemploment led to rise poverty line

Submitted by Christopher Hutton on
This graph conveniently leaves out the United States, which would have a large share of women in non-agricultural employment but an embarrassingly low share of women serving in parliament.

Submitted by Sarah on
I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. Sarah

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