‘Caregiving the biggest obstacle to gender equality at work’

A new ILO report finds that caregiving is the biggest obstacle to gender equality at work.

baby, holiday, child


A number of factors are blocking equality in employment, and the one playing the largest role is caregiving, according to the Director of the International Labour Organisation’s Conditions of Work and Equality Department.

Launching a new report, Manuela Tomei said: “In the last 20 years, the amount of time women spent on unpaid care and domestic work has hardly fallen, and men’s has increased by just eight minutes a day. At this pace of change it will take more than 200 years to achieve equality in time spent in unpaid care work.”

The A Quantum leap for gender equality: For a better future of work for all  report is optimistic about gender equality at work, but says it will take a quantum leap, not just hesitant incremental steps, to get there.  It finds that in the last 27 years the difference in the employment rates for men and women has shrunk by less than two percentage points. In 2018, women are still 26 percentage points less likely to be in employment than men despite research showing 70 per cent of women prefer to have a job rather than staying at home and that men agree.

In addition, between 2005 and 2015, the ‘motherhood employment penalty’, the difference in the proportion of adult women with children under six years in employment, compared to women without young children, increased significantly, by 38 per cent.  The report also found women are still underrepresented at the top, a situation that has changed very little in the last 30 years. Fewer than one third of managers are women, although they are likely to be better educated than their male counterparts. The report shows generally that education is not the main reason for lower employment rates and lower pay of women, but rather that women do not receive the same dividends for education as men.

It also notes a ‘motherhood leadership penalty’: only 25 per cent of managers with children under six years of age are women. Women’s share rises to 31 per cent for managers without young children.

It says the gender wage gap remains at an average of 20 per cent globally and that mothers experience a ‘motherhood wage penalty’ that compounds across their working life, while fathers enjoy a wage premium.

The report sets out laws and practices that are changing this dynamic, for a more equal sharing of care within the family, and between the family and the State. “When men share unpaid care work more equally, more women are found in managerial positions,” added Tomei, highlighting the role of men in creating a more gender-equal work of work. The ILO also reports on a LinkedIn research project which finds that, although women often lack digital skills, those who have them are able to progress faster than men.

World Bank report

Meanwhile, six European countries top the World Bank’s report on gender equality around the world.

The World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law index examines legal rights across the world’s labour markets. It ranks Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, France, Latvia and Luxembourg at the top, giving them a score of 100, meaning they give women and men equal legal rights in the measured areas.

“A decade ago none of these economies scored 100, indicating they all reformed over the past ten years,” the report said. Austria, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the UK follow the top six with scores of 97.5, ahead of Australia, Iceland and Serbia, with scores of 96.88.

Germany scored 91.88, and the US registered 83.75. Saudi Arabia came in last on a score of 25.63, and the bottom five was rounded out by the UAE and Sudan (both 29.38), Iran (31.25), and Qatar (32.5).

Equal pay and homeworking

Meanwhile, the city administration committee of Glasgow City Council which has been at the centre of an equal pay case is to be asked to back the introduction of a Job Evaluation Scheme, the next step towards implementing a new pay and grading system as part of moves to fully settling the council’s equal pay issues.

Workforce convener Councillor Michelle Ferns said of the new scheme that: “Equality will be at the centre of the implementation and the required training for those involved in its delivery will include the principles of equality and the concept of equal pay for work of equal value.”

Last month the council approved an historic equal pay deal costing at least £500 million. The equal pay case involves around 14,000 equal pay claims and had been going on for over 10 years. Glasgow council introduced a new pay and grading scheme in 2006, which aimed to put an end to pay inequality based on gender. However, it included protections lasting three years for bonuses paid to men.


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