Women are now 26% less likely to find a job than men - and get hit by motherhood penalties

An empty office space reminds us how employment is on the decline, especially for women
An empty office space reminds us how employment is on the decline, especially for women

It has become apparent in a new study that gender equality at workplaces may be stagnant and even regressing in some cases. This is according to the International Labour Organisation recent report

In the report called A Quantum leap for gender equality: For a better future of work for all, it finds that in the past 20 years the gender gaps in the key labour market indicators have not narrowed meaningfully in any region or for any income group.

Based on a representative global sample, about 70% of the women interviewed said that they would prefer to be in paid work, and 66.5% of men agreed that they should be. However, in 2018 only 45.3% of women had a job.

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Over the past 27 years, the gender employment gap has shrunk by less than 2 percentage points. Both women’s and men’s employment rates have declined globally, but men’s have declined at a faster rate.

The report says women are still 26% less likely to be employed than men that women were likely to be more employed in occupations that are considered to be low-skilled and to face worse working conditions than men.

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In more than 90% of sub-Saharan African countries, women are more exposed to informal employment – leaving women under-represented in managerial and leadership positions. The report notes that, globally, women only make up 27.1% of managers and leaders.

According to Statistics SA, South Africa experiences the same inequality with the unemployment among women being higher than men at 29.5% in 2018 compared with 25.3% among men in the same period.

The report cites reasons affecting women in the workplace as “motherhood penalties” where only 45.8% women with children 5 years old and younger were employed compared to 53.2% of women without children of that age.

Another contributing factor to a regressive gender equal workplace is the notorious unequal pay. The report notes that the global wage gap still remains at close to 20%, a result of women being systematically paid less.

Also listed as contributing factors is education, violence and harassment in the workplace, and poor representation in trade unions and employers’ organizations.

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The report provides four broad recommendations to eradicate gender equality in the world of work. This includes realising equality when it comes to care services, education, access to resources and representation of women in governance structures in the workplace.

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