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Fridays Academy: Gender and the Labor Market

Ignacio Hernandez's picture

As usual on Fridays, from Raj Nallari and Breda Griffith's lecture notes.


Women command more of the family responsibilities and although there has been some progress towards more even sharing in developed countries, especially when women are in waged and/or salaried employment, in countries where women are primarily employed as own account workers or in unpaid work, they bear the burden of family responsibilities. As noted by the ILO “the move from being an unpaid contributing family worker or a low paid own-account worker into wage and salaried employment is a major step forward in terms of freedom and self-determination for many women – even though it does not always entail getting a decent job right away.”

The status of employment indicator distinguishes by types of employment by dividing people into three categories – wage and salary workers (employees); self employed workers and contributing family workers (family workers). While helping to identify gender relations in the world of work, the indicator also serves two further functions. It informs on whether the labor market in a given country/region is becoming more informal (i.e. a move away from wage employment) and provides an approximate measure of economic growth and development by charting sectoral growth and movement from agricultural to industrial to service employment that would be reflected in a growing share of waged and salaried workers.

Male and Female Status of Employment, 1996 and 2006.



The trends suggest that globally at least, women have made progress in the world of work.  The table above examines male and female status of employment for 1996 and 2006, informing on changes between these two dates. First, the share of female wage and salaried workers has increased between 1996 and 2006, 47.9 per cent of working women were in wage and salaried employment in 2006 compared with 42.9 per cent ten years earlier. The share of own-account workers increased from 22.4 per cent in 1996 to 25.7 per cent in 2006 and the share of contributing family workers declined from 33.2 per cent to 25.1 per cent during the same period. 


At the regional level, progress is less apparent. In fact, females employed as contributing family workers increased from 36.2 to 39.3 percent in Sub Saharan Africa in the time period under review and while some progress was made in reducing the number of women in this category in South Asia over the period, it remains the chief employer of women, accounting for 62.6 percent in 2006. Furthermore, over one third of women workers continue to be employed as contributing family workers in South East Asia and Pacific.