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Fridays Academy: Gender and the Labor Market

Ignacio Hernandez's picture

From  Raj Nallari and Breda Griffith's lecture notes.


Unemployment Rates

The figure below examines world and regional unemployment rates by sex for 2006. Globally women were more likely to be unemployed compared with men. Female unemployment in 2006 was 6.6 percent compared to 6.1 percent for men. Furthermore, the 2006 female unemployment rate increased from 6.3 percent in 1996. According to the ILO (2007) there were a total of 81.8 million women who were willing to work and actively looking for work without a job; up 22.7 percent from 10 years earlier.


World and Regional Unemployment Rates by Sex, 2006. 

Source: ILO (2007)


Further disparity exists when comparing female youth unemployment – those aged 15-24 years.  Roughly 35.6 million young women were seeking employment in 2006. And while noting that youth unemployment is most times higher than adult unemployment rates, we see from the figure below that female youth unemployment rates are far higher than male youth in five of the regions considered – Central and Eastern Europe (non-EU and CIS), South East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Middle East and North Africa. 


World and Regional Female Youth Unemployment Rates by sex, 2006.


Source: ILO (2007)



Greater insight to the unemployment situation can be gleaned from examining other variables. In particular, employment-to-population ratios, sectoral employment, status of employment and wage and earning indicators provide a more comprehensible story.  The ILO (2007) also suggests examining the working poor numbers as these data inform on whether the jobs created are of a decent quality to allow women to work themselves and their family out of poverty. Furthermore, discouraged workers are not included in official unemployment statistics and “given that women face higher unemployment rates, have far fewer opportunities in labour markets than men and often face social barriers to enter labour markets, it is very likely that discouragement among women is higher than among men in most countries in the developing world” (ILO, 2007; p.5).  

An examination of employment-to-population ratios, see Table below, suggests that in all the regions women’s productive potential is not being used to the same extent as men.  Only half of working age women (aged 15 and higher) work compared to more than 7 out of ten men.  The lowest employment-to-population ratio for females occurs in Middle East and North Africa, 24.5 percent compared to 69.3 percent for men, followed by South Asia.  Over the ten year period, the female ratio has worsened for the World as a whole and in Central and Eastern Europe (non EU) and CIS, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.  



Male and Female Employment-to-Population Ratios and Unemployment Rates, 1996 and 2006.

Source: ILO (2007)


The extent and depth of female unemployment suggest that there are many women who want a job but are unable to find one (ILO, 2007).  This is particularly true for developing economies.  One way to bring more women into productive labour is by increasing their participation in education, equipping them with the skills necessary to compete in the labor market. While some progress has been made, more remains to be done. 


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