Women have only become marginally better off with respect to equality at work in the last two decades and at the current rate pay equity between women and men will not be achieved before 2086, according to the International Labour Organisation.
In a briefing paper for International Women’s Day the ILO says progress has been mixed on tackling discrimination. In terms of policy, legislation, and the ratification of international labour standards, there has been notable progress, says the ILO. For example, in 1995, 126 ILO member States had ratified the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100) and 122 had ratified the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) . Those numbers are now 171 and 172 respectively. However, it says women continue to experience widespread discrimination and inequality in the workplace. It states: “In most parts of the world, women are often in undervalued and low-paid jobs; lack access to education, training, recruitment; have limited bargaining and decision-making power; and still shoulder responsibility for most unpaid care work.”
Globally, the gap in labour market participation rates between men and women has decreased only marginally since 1995. Currently about 50 per cent of all women are working, compared to 77 per cent of men. In 1995, these figures were 52 per cent and 80 per cent respectively. The ILO says it is estimated that reducing the gap in participation rates between men and women by 25 per cent in G20 countries by 2025 would add more than 100 million women to the labour force.
It states that access to maternity protection has improved, though many women are still left out. While the percentage of countries offering 14 weeks or more maternity leave has increased from 38 per cent to 51 per cent, more than 800 million women workers globally, or 41 per cent of all women, still don’t have adequate maternity protection.
At the same time, the ILO says states are increasingly recognising men’s care responsibilities. In 1994, 28 per cent of countries surveyed provided some form of paternity leave. As of 2013, this figure had increased to 47 per cent. However, women still take most of the childcare burden. In the EU, for instance, women spend an average of 26 hours per week on care and household activities, compared with nine hours for men.
The report states that women tend to be concentrated in micro and small enterprises and while women sit on 19 per cent of board seats globally, only five per cent or less of the CEOs of the world’s largest corporations are women.
Some 35 per cent of all women are victims of physical and/or sexual violence that affects their attendance at work.
Another ILO report focuses on the gender pay gap linked to motherhood. It says that in general, women earn on average 77 per cent of what men earn, with the absolute gap widening for higher-earning women.
In addition, the ILO says it appears that the unadjusted motherhood gap tends to be larger in developing than developed countries. Globally, the motherhood pay gap increases with the number of children a woman has; in many European countries, for example, having one child has only a small negative effect, but women with two and especially three children experience a significant wage penalty. In developing countries, evidence suggests that the sex of the child may matter as daughters may be more likely than sons to help with household and caring tasks, thereby reducing the motherhood gap.
“The overriding conclusion 20 years on from Beijing is that despite marginal progress, we have years, even decades to go until women enjoy the same rights and benefits as men at work,” said Shauna Olney, Chief of the Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch of the ILO.
“The ILO has launched the women at work centenary initiative to accelerate its efforts to support global action to meet this challenge and deliver on the transformative agenda on gender equality and women’s empowerment called for in the proposed UN Sustainable Development Goals. This change won’t happen organically. It requires specific, targeted, and courageous policy interventions.”