Gender gaps in women’s paid work

Women’s labour force participation has stagnated over the past 25 years. Gender gaps are wide and persistent: three quarters of men are in the labour force, compared to only half of women.

Differences in women’s employment opportunities, gender pay gaps, and less access to social protection results in large lifetime income gaps. Over their lifetimes, women in Sweden and France can expect to earn 31 per cent less than men; this figure is 49 per cent for women in Germany and 75 per cent for women in Turkey.

The quality of women’s work matters

Rather than pushing more women in the labour market at any cost, the aim should be to create good quality, empowering jobs, and to value the work that women do. This means addressing occupational segregation, closing gender pay gaps, and making workplaces safe and free from violence and sexual harassment.

Transforming women’s work

Minimum wages reduce the risk of women being in low paid work and narrow the gender pay gap

  • In Brazil, the doubling of the minimum wage narrowed the gender pay gap by 9 percentage points

Providing paid leave and child-care services make it easier for women and men to combine paid and unpaid work, expanding women’s employment choices

  • In EU countries with family-friendly policies, women’s employment rates are significantly higher than in countries without such support (see figure)

Joint titling and equal ownership rights for married women, increase women’s control over land, helping to secure their livelihoods.

  • In Rwanda, as a result of gender-sensitive land reform, women are 17 percentage points more likely to be regarded as joint landowners.

Average maternal employment rates by number of children in European Union countries, by family policy regime, 2013

In Europe, women’s employment rates are much higher in countries where family-friendly policies are in place

Source: UN Women calculations using data from Eurostat 2015.
Note: Family policy regime classification as in Thévenon 2011:
1. Limited assistance to families.
2. Long leave but low cash benefits and childcare for children under age 3.
3. Period of paid leave is short, with support targeted to low-income, single-parent families and families with preschool children.
4. High financial support but limited service provision to support dual-earner families with children under age 3.
5. Continuous, strong support for working parents of children under age 3.

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Source: ILO 2015c.
Note: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) three letter country codes are used to stand for country name.
The figures uses 2013 ILO data on average labour force participation for those aged 25 to 54, disaggregated by sex.
* 27 refers to the labour force participation gap of all working-age women and men, aged 15 years and over.