Gender gaps in labour force participation and employment rates declined only marginally
Between 1995 and 2015, the global female labour force participation rate decreased from 52.4 to 49.6 per cent. The corresponding gures for men are 79.9 and 76.1 per cent, respectively. Worldwide, the chances for women to participate in the labour market remain almost 27 percentage points lower than those for men ( gure I). In regions where gender gaps in participation have been high, they have remained so. In Southern Asia and Eastern Asia, the gap has grown even wider. Women’s lower participation rates trans- late into fewer employment opportunities, with little variation over time, which negatively affects women’s earning capacity and economic security. In 2015, the gender gap in the employment rate amounted to 25.5 percentage points in women’s disfavour, only 0.6 percentage points less than in 1995. It is only in Northern, Southern and Western Europe that employment gaps have closed marginally as women con- tinue to enter the labour market in higher numbers in that region – but also as a result of the reduction of men’s employment rates due to the economic downturn. In addition, the global nancial crisis led to a temporary reduction in gender gaps in employment in Northern America. Overall, however, change has been virtually absent.
The quality of women’s jobs remains a challenge
Status in employment and informal employment
In 2015, a total of 586 million women were own-account or contributing family workers. Women remain overrepresented as contributing family workers. Some progress has been made, however, in closing the gender gap in this regard. Globally, the share of contributing family workers has decreased signi cantly among women (by 17.0 percentage points over the last 20 years) and to a lesser extent among men (by 8.1 percentage points over the same period), resulting in a decrease in the gender gap from 19.5 per- centage points in 1995 to 10.6 percentage points in 2015 ( gure II). This trend is part of an economic restructuring shift away from agricultural work, which largely consisted of subsistence and small-scale activities. That said, however, many working women remain in employment statuses and in occupations that are more likely to consist of informal work arrangements. In sub-Saharan Africa and in Southern Asia, a high proportion of women work as contributing family workers (34.9 per cent and 31.8 per cent, respec- tively) or as own-account workers (42.5 per cent and 47.7 per cent, respectively).
Moreover, 52.1 per cent of women and 51.2 per cent of men in the labour market are wage and salaried workers. This in itself constitutes no guarantee of higher job quality. In fact, globally, nearly 40 per cent of women in wage employment do not contribute to social protection. Those proportions reach 63.2 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and 74.2 per cent in Southern Asia, where informal employment is the dominant form of employment. In Southern Asia, for instance, informal employment represents over 80 per cent of non-agricultural employment. In three out of six regions, informal employment is a greater source of non- agricultural employment for women than for men (sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Southern Asia). In this regard, gender gaps in informal employment can reach up to 13 percentage points, as is the case in sub-Saharan Africa.
Sectoral and occupational segregation
Globally, the services sector has overtaken agriculture as the sector that employs the highest number of women and men. By 2015, slightly more than half of the global working population was working in services (50.1 per cent). While 42.6 per cent of all men work in services, substantially more than half of the world’s women are employed in that sector: since 1995, women’s employment in services has increased from 41.1 per cent to 61.5 per cent.