International Women's Day A dozen countries in Asia-Pacific say 'yes' in principle to international labour standard for domestic workers - global discussion at ILC in June
Governments, worker and employer organizations in Asia and the Pacific have indicated their general support - in principle - of setting a new international
labour standard which could offer better social protection to millions of domestic workers - defined as women and men - who earn their living by working
in the homes of others.
More women choosing to work, but gender equality remains a long way off
GENEVA (ILO News) - Despite signs of progress in gender equality over the past
15 years, there is still a significant gap between women and men in terms of job
opportunities and quality of employment, according to a new report by the
International Labour Office (ILO).
The report, entitled Women in labour markets: Measuring progress and
identifying challenges, says that more than a decade after the 4th World
Conference on Women in Beijing adopted an ambitious global platform for action
on gender equality and women*s empowerment, gender biases remain deeply
embedded in society and the labour market.
The ILO report shows that the rate of female labour force participation has
increased from 50.2 to 51.7 per cent between 1980 and 2008, while the male rate
decreased slightly from 82.0 to 77.7 per cent. As a result, the gender gap in
labour force participation rates has narrowed from 32 to 26 percentage points.
The increases in female participation were seen in all but two regions, Central
and South-Eastern Europe (non-EU), and the CIS countries and East Asia, with the
largest gain seen in Latin America and the Caribbean. In almost all regions,
though, the rate of increase has slowed in recent years. It was in the 1980s and
early *90s that gains in numbers of economically active women were strongest.
At the same time, the share of women in wage and salaried work has grown from
42.8 per cent in 1999 to 47.3 per cent in 2009, and the share of vulnerable
employment decreased from 55.9 per cent to 51.2 per cent.
*While there have been areas of improvement since the Beijing conference and
more women are choosing to work, they still don*t enjoy the same gains as men
in the labour markets*, said Sara Elder of the ILO*s Employment Trends unit
and main author of the report. *We still find many more women than men taking
up low-pay and precarious work, either because this is the only type of job made
available to them or because they need to find something that allows them to
balance work and family responsibilities. Men do not face these same
The report shows that there are three basic areas of lingering gender
imbalances in the world of work. First, nearly half (48.4 per cent) of the
female population above the age of 15 remain economically inactive, compared to
22.3 per cent for men. In some regions, there are still less than 4 economically
active women per 10 active men. Second, women who do want to work have a harder
time than men in finding work. And third, when women do find work, they receive
less pay and benefits than the male workers in similar positions.
*Labour markets and policies must be much more attuned to a broader paradigm
of gender equality, one that adapts and builds on the unique values and
constraints of both women and men,* Ms. Elder said. *Faster and broader
progress towards equality in occupations and employment opportunities is
required and possible*.
The ILO report says the initial impact of the global economic crisis was felt
in sectors dominated by men, such as finance, manufacturing and construction,
but the impact has since expanded to other sectors - including services - where
women tend to predominate.
The ILO estimates that the global female unemployment rate increased from 6.0
per cent in 2007 to 7.0 per cent in 2009, slightly more than the male rate which
rose from 5.5 to 6.3 per cent. But in four of the nine regions, it was the male
unemployment rate that rose more than the female. In 2009, female unemployment
rates were higher than male rates in seven of nine regions, and in the Middle
East and North Africa the difference was as high as 7 percentage points.
The report also says that while women and men workers may now be almost equally
affected by the crisis in terms of job losses, the real gender impact of the
crisis may be yet to come.
*We know from previous crises that female job-losers find it more difficult
to return to work as economic recovery settles in,* Ms. Elder said.
*That*s why it is important to ensure that gender equality is not a
fair weather policy aim that falls aside in the face of hard times. It should be
seen as a means to promote growth and employment rather than as a cost or
Jane Hodges, Director of the ILO*s Bureau for Gender Equality, noted that the
15 years since Beijing had provided important lessons in terms of what works for
working women and gender equality. She said the resolution on Gender Equality at
the Heart of Decent Work, adopted by the 2009 International Labour Conference,
will guide ILO constituents* efforts towards a labour market in which all
women and men can participate freely and actively, including efforts to
facilitate women*s economic empowerment through entrepreneurship development,
address unequal remuneration between women and men, enhance social protection
for all and strengthen women*s participation in social dialogue.
On 8 March, the ILO will mark International Women*s Day at its headquarters
in Geneva and other offices around the world. The Geneva event will bring
together experts from governments and employers* and workers* organizations
from diverse countries and backgrounds for a panel discussion on *What works
for working women*.
International Women's Day
A dozen countries in Asia-Pacific say 'yes' in principle to international
labour standard for domestic workers - global discussion at ILC in June
Bangkok (ILO News): Governments, worker and employer organizations in Asia and
the Pacific have indicated their general support - in principle - of setting a
new international labour standard which could offer better social protection to
millions of domestic workers - defined as women and men - who earn their living
by working in the homes of others.
An ILO report, *Decent Work for Domestic Workers,* carries the responses of
75 member States to a Questionnaire on the idea of an international labour
standard for domestic workers. It includes the replies from 13 Governments of
member States from the Asia and Pacific region. Responses were received from 32
worker and employer organizations across the region.
The document was published in preparation of a formal discussion at the
International Labour Conference this June on the subject. This annual Conference
brings together Governments, Worker and Employer Organizations from more than
180 member States - the only tripartite meeting of its kind within the UN system
- to discuss critical issues in the world of work.
The setting of an international standard for domestic workers would be an
historic move to recognize and protect an occupation often under-acknowledged by
society. In Asia and the Pacific many domestic workers face indifference at best
by the public and can be subject to outright physical and sexual abuse by their
employers who are often beyond the pale of labour inspections or redress under
national labour laws. Migrant domestic workers are especially vulnerable.
The publishing of the report comes just a few days in advance of International
Women*s Day (8 March). This year the various themes to mark the occasion focus
on progress for equal rights and equal opportunities in society and in the
*It is encouraging and timely to see the positive comments coming from member
States here in Asia and the Pacific,* said Ms Sachiko Yamamoto, the ILO*s
Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. *Judging by the responses received
so far, the indication is that there should be an international standard to
better protect domestic workers in Asia and the Pacific.*
If the June ILC decides that it is advisable to adopt one or more international
instruments, the International Labour Office will draw up, on the basis of the
conclusions adopted by the Conference, one or more draft international labour
instruments to be considered. It will then be for the Conference to make a final
decision on the subject at a future session.