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Gender equality can counter recession: ILO

Source: PTI
March 05, 2009 12:41 IST
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The economic downturn has hit women harder, but the trend can be arrested if governments adopt gender equality policies, the ILO said on Thursday.

In its latest report titled Global Employment Trends For Women, the UN's labour body said unemployment of women -- a vulnerable group -- might rise between 6.5 per cent to 7.4 per cent during the year.

Noting that women were among the 'more vulnerable' of the working population in terms of disadvantages in accessing labour markets, the ILO said in most regions around the globe the impact of the economic crisis would be more detrimental for them.

The report projected the global unemployment rate for women at 6.3 percent and at 5.9 per cent for men. The international report suggested women workers in Latin America and Caribbean would be the most effected by the crisis. Interestingly, it also said the impact was almost similar among both genders in developed economies where there was little or no gender divide.

In India and Africa, where women were mostly engaged in non-economic household work and agriculture was the biggest source of employment, there remained a chance of considerably higher incidence of poverty, it said.

Suggesting that the 'backwardness' of South Asia and Africa could in fact offer protection to large number of women engaged in agricultural work, an ILO expert in New Delhi said that "those in construction and other export-oriented production activities will be severely impacted, resulting in an increase in overall poverty."

According to the employment data available with the ILO, more than 65 per cent of South Asia's women workforce were employed in agriculture in comparison to 40 per cent men.

In developed economies of the Americas and the EU, about 83 per cent of the women work force were engaged in the services sector.

The study suggested that maintaining 'gender equality' in any policy response would not only better the position of working women, but also impact the overall stability of society.

As ways and means to tide over the effect, the report recommended that 'when governments design and implement fiscal stimulus packages, it is important to recognise the labour market disadvantage that women face through the equity challenge, and to consider explicit employment growth targets for women.'

It also stated that the impact on the unpaid family care work that women were mostly responsible for -- which may expand as the crisis worsens -- is another fundamental dimension to address, as it may further limit women from accessing labour markets if policies to improve sharing of these responsibilities with men were not forthcoming.

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