ILO’s “Women at work: Trends 2016” looks at patterns of inequalities between men and women in global labor markets from 1995 to 2015 using data from up to 178 countries. It shows little progress. Over the past 20 years, the gender gap decreased by only 1% in workforce participation; remained constant in employment-to-population ratio; and stagnated in employment rates. The gender wage gap dropped by 2% but remains at a high 23%. If nothing changes, the ILO tells us that it will not close before 2086! Mothers suffer an extra wage penalty. In the US for instance, each extra child brings a decrease in earnings for women but a proportionally higher increase for men. And because women take the larger share of informal and unpaid work around the globe, these gender gaps at work are accompanied by gaps in access to social protection such as pensions, maternity benefits and unemployment benefits. Yes, this is rather depressing. On a constructive note the report argues that getting the “care economy” right could help turn things around. Everywhere in the world, women take on most of the care work, from early childhood, to disability, to elderly care. And everywhere in the world, this work is invisible and undervalued. Those who can afford it outsource care support in ways that often exacerbate the global care crisis, e.g., international migration of informal care workers. Overall, demand for care work is on the rise because of a confluence of trends such as ageing, urbanization, migration, and changing family structures. So the future of the global care economy is something to further investigate as we look to what matters for child wellbeing.
This is a nice segue to Slaughter’s “Unfinished business: Women men work family”, a widely acclaimed book building on a very popular 2012 article. If Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, work and the will to lead” left you slightly uncomfortable because of the central focus on what women can/should do to fix work inequalities, Slaughter’s thesis might resonate better. Both books have had great resonance: they took gender equality in the workplace outside of the closet and have pushed many organizations take a serious look at their internal imbalances. Both books also share similar biases: they are written by high-power affluent women, using personal anecdotes that will only speak to the few, and focusing largely on the US. What is special about Slaughter’s perspective is to use a systemic analytical lens: gender inequalities at work are not a women problem, they are societal issues that have to do with how we value caregiving, how we assign gender roles, how we shape workplace rules, and how we design public policies. A must read.
All essays on work and gender inequalities call for more women in leadership roles. So my table of the week is from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)’s “Women in national parliaments” [Can someone please second a data viz. expert to the IPU?]. The data is from February 2016 and give a world average of 22.6% of women in national parliaments. On top of the list is Rwanda. At the bottom is Yemen. Nordic countries are on average above 40% while Pacific countries are below 15%.
My quote this week is the 2-minute message from a father to his daughter in the Ariel India gone-viral video: “Why is laundry only a mother’s job?”. Just watch.