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  • Writer's pictureL3 Global Ventures

Gender Gap in the Global Labor Force

For centuries, women worldwide have been experiencing difficulty finding a job more than men. And despite the growing awareness and publicity towards inequalities women experience in the workplace, men continue to attain the majority of higher-paying employment than women. When a woman acquires a job, it tends to be low-quality and occurs in vulnerable conditions. And statisticians see little improvement forecast in the near future.

The Global Stats

In 2009, the global gender parity for the labor force slowly declined, according to the Global Gender Gap Index. By 2020, this decline intensified when gender parity scores in the global labor force hastily decreased over two consecutive editions. As a result, the gender parity scores for 2022 stand at 62.9%, the lowest registered score since the Index was first compiled.

This crucial statistic is evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted progress on gender parity regarding labor-force participation. The most significant risk is that the damage within our gender-based labor market can last long. Additionally, the distribution of unpaid work and other employment-related factors are significantly affected by the decline in women's labor force participation, which eventually impacts women's access to opportunities in the economy and other spheres of life.

The Philippine Stats

The situation of Filipino women today brings optimism and a reason to step up efforts to provide better employment opportunities for all women. The Philippines serves as one of the top performers on several fronts regarding gender equality in the East Asia and Pacific region.

However, the participation of women in the Philippine labor force remains persistently low. In 2019, the Philippines' female labor force measured only 49%, making it one of the weakest in East Asia and the Pacific. Contrastingly, 76% of Filipino men were part of the Philippine labor force, establishing a wide gender gap. Minimal progress has been made to close this gap, and the participation of women in the Philippine labor force remained roughly the same since 1990.

The Challenges Faced

Unemployment Gap

This challenge is experienced both by men and women alike. In a document published by the International Labor Organization, the drop in active job searching is cited as one of the causes of the rise in unemployment. People hardly saw the value of looking for a job during a national or local lockdown or when they could not accept paid employment due to additional household responsibilities like child care and homeschooling. Although this type of labor drop has been a feature of prior recessions, the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the unemployment gap is more widespread than in previous recessions and is felt in more countries.

Vulnerable Employment

Poor pay, low productivity, and challenging working circumstances caused by a lack of formal work frequently indicate vulnerable employment, jeopardizing workers' fundamental rights. Women under this condition can only work fewer hours than men, sometimes even unpaid. They are also usually contributing family workers and do not have a statutory right to maternity leave or access to social protection.

Gender Roles

Certain areas, homes, and religions can pressure women to conform to gender roles. For instance, the marital status of a person might serve as a sign of pressure to fit in. Married women or those with a partner are less likely to hold a paid position or actively seek one in developed and developing economies. This frequently results from a partner's stable financial situation, exacerbating the bias against "male breadwinners" in some marriages. The opposite is true in developing nations, when all women, regardless of their marital status, are forced to work due to the region's economic necessity.

Work-Family Balance

Both women and men consistently cite the effort to juggle paid jobs with family duties as the top obstacle for women in the workforce.

The security of the household and society depends on childcare, cleaning, and cooking. Still, women continue to bear the burden of this frequently invisible and underappreciated workload.

Lack of Transportation

For the small fraction of women who report being affected, the absence of accessible and safe transportation is the most challenging issue in developing and emerging nations. Women frequently risk experiencing harassment or even sexual assault on their everyday commute.

Lack of Affordable Care

The lack of affordable care for children or other family members is a global obstacle women face, for those actively seeking employment and those in paid work.

According to World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends for Women 2017, this obstacle decreases women's participation chances by almost 5% in developing countries and 4% in developed countries.

Why does the gender gap matter?

Achieving gender equality is beyond doing what "fair" and "right is." Reducing gender gaps in the workforce could substantially increase global gross domestic product (GDP). Countries with minor gender gaps are most likely to experience significant growth benefits. Also, developed countries would see an increase in their average annual GDP, which is vital during near-zero economic growth.

Human welfare depends on having the freedom to work as one pleases, within circumstances of dignity, safety, and justice. Making sure that women can exercise this privilege is a worthwhile goal in and of itself.

What do women want?

When women receive tertiary education and have paid employment, they are more likely to become a part of the workforce, according to the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends for Women 2017.

Women also want to observe flexibility when it comes to their work, which is especially evident in women who have their own families. And yet, based on research by the American Sociological Association, men are more likely to experience this much-needed flexibility than women.

And lastly, women seek real leadership opportunities. While men and women can turn down leadership opportunities, their reasons differ. Men usually decline leadership positions simply because they don't want them. Women also shared the same concerns. However, they also shared their concern that they weren't qualified enough for the role, were unsure if others would be supportive of them, or were worried it was a setup for failure.

What can the workplace do?

Achieve equal pay

Equal pay for equal work must be a legal requirement and be actively promoted daily. To this purpose, more wage transparency and gender-neutral work appraisal can contribute. It also improves current structures like minimum salaries and collective bargaining.

Address occupational segregation

There is a tendency to overrepresent women in occupations viewed as unskilled or "low-value," particularly in care jobs. Challenge preconceptions by educating employees, arranging public outreaches, and implementing job evaluation systems.

Eliminate discrimination

While explicit legislation is essential in fighting against gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace, it is not enough. Additional steps to end discrimination include effective remedies, deterrent sanctions, specialized equality bodies, and public awareness campaigns.

Promote work-life balance

Lack of access to proper maternity protection, paid paternity or parental leave, and other social protection measures affect many men and women who have their own families. Policy changes should consider that women now conduct most unpaid family and household labor.

Establish quality care jobs

Poor protection and regulation have long plagued the care professions, where women are overrepresented. Encouraging fair employment for care providers, including domestic and migrant workers, is critical. The over-reliance on unpaid care work should also be lessened and redistributed through expanding public services and social infrastructure.

Guard against downturns

Due to the likelihood of ending up in vulnerable or informal employment, women are disproportionately impacted by any economic crisis. Safeguards against the effects of economic downturns need to be complemented by gender-responsive policies, including efforts to formalize jobs in the informal economy. The data is clear: Women want to be in paid employment, experience safety and stability in the workplace and continue breaking whatever barriers are placed in front of them by simply becoming an integral part of their country's workforce. Identifying the obstacles that keep them from doing so and taking the proper steps to break them and bring women further into the workforce can ultimately close gender gaps and improve the global economy.

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