By Oscar Ugarteche, Valentina Ballesté* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
QUITO (IDN) - With no haste, but without pause, the participation of women in the labour market has seen accelerated growth since the 1970s, according to the Panorama Laboral 2012 of the International Labour Organization (ILO). There is a gradual closing of the differences in participation between men and women in the labour force.
The participation rate of women in Latin America in 2012 was 49.8%, the employment rate was 40.2% and the unemployment rate 7.7%, while for men the participation rate was 71.4%, employment 59.8% and unemployment 5.6%. (1)
Women who previously formed part of the population classified as inactive are now employed or in search of paid work. Nevertheless, the capacity of the labour market to respond is insufficient in the face of these growing demands, a factor which is reflected in greater informal employment, and the rates of female unemployment are greater than those of men.
Since the 1970s, some 80 million women have joined the labour market. But the economically active population is still predominantly masculine with 138 million men. It should be noted that at the present time there are 1.4 men for each woman active in the labour market, although this could be reduced to 1.2 by 2030. In addition, the ILO estimates that between 2005 and 2020, 1.3 women will join the labour market for every man.
On the other hand, according to data from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Carribean (ECLAC), referring to urban zones of the region, women enjoyed an annual wage equivalent to 68% of the male wage in 2011. Measured for the number of hours worked, women were paid 72% of the income accorded to men, although the gap for women with higher education is lower since these received the equivalent of 83% of masculine hourly income (2).
Women with more years of schooling enjoyed greater economic participation, while men, independently of the level of instruction, maintained this higher rate. In addition CEPAL points out that while 5.2 per cent of male workers reached executive ranks, this applied to only 3.9 per cent of women, but this does involve a closing of the gap since 1970, in which there were no women in executive positions.
Women in Latin America can be grouped in three large categories: 1) 53% belong to the economically active population (EAP); 2) 31% are dedicated to domestic tasks; 3) 16% are studying. In the average urban region, there is a difference of approximately seven hours per week in the hours worked by men and women.
The biggest gaps between the paid feminine workday and that of men are those existing in Argentina, Costa Rica and Peru, countries in which there is a difference of some ten hours, often as a consequence of the number of women who are heads of single parent families and who must maintain their households.
It should be noted that even if women work more than men, the number of hours destined to paid work falls with the number of children under the age of five years in the household. Later they return to full time work.
This brings with it a high portion of women in informal work, which tends to be more flexible and allows them to combine family obligations with their work, although in many cases this means situations of outsourcing, unstable working conditions and low wages.
This can be illustrated with the cases of Mexico and Argentina. Mexico has almost three times the population of Argentina, but the economically active female population has a higher participation in the South American country than in Mexico, in the decades under consideration.
This happens because in Mexico women are more represented in the informal sector, as a reflection of the growing informal economy, and thus they are not counted in the economically active population. In addition, it is necessary to take into consideration the higher birthrate in Mexico as contrasted with the low Argentinian birthrate. Moreover, the level of education is higher in Argentina than in Mexico.
With this in mind, it should be noted that women still face inequalities on entering the labour market, which can be explained by the persistence of sexual-gender stereotypes that lead to gender inequalities at the moment of hiring and the assignment of activities. This appears to involve a lack of strategy and of policies for conciliating work and family, on the part of the State. Nor do policies of gender equality exist in Latin America that would serve to evaluate the process of the closing gap.
Finally it must be noted that there is a growing feminine participation in economic, social and political affairs in Latin America since the 1970s. There is evidence of more women in the labour market and of greater exploitation measured in hours of work and wages, where women work more and are paid less than men, as a rule. On the other hand, with high educational levels, the gap is closing. Finally, it is obvious that there is a lack of public policies to deal with levels of discrimination against women both in the workplace and in political life.
*Oscar Ugarteche is a Peruvian economist who works in the Institute de Investigaciones Económicas de UNAM, Mexico. He is a member of SNI/Conacyt. Coordinator of the Observatorio Económico de America Latina (OBELA). President of ALAI www.alainet.org Valentina Ballesté is a member of the OBELA project, IIEC-UNAM. (Translation: Jordan Bishop). Source: ALAI [IDN-InDepthNews – October 12, 2013]
(1) ILO, based on a country survey. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---americas/---ro-lima/documents/publication/wcms_195884.pdf
(2) CEPAL 2012. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---americas/---ro-lima/documents/publication/wcms_195884.pdf
Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos
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