Wage Inequities Continue

Although some advances have been made towards wage equity, women still earn around 50 to 80 per cent of men's wages. This gap is partly due to the trends mentioned in the foregoing sub-section:

  • concentration of women in low-skilled and low-status jobs,
  • the segmentation of the labour market into feminine or masculine occupations,
  • women's shorter working hours, and
  • their unavailability for overtime, night work and shift work because of legal barriers and/or family responsibilities.

Have a look at the Global Gender Gap Index 2011:

Compare the scores and rankings of three countries (economic subindex and gender gap index). Take some notes:

Could you see differences between the index and the economic subindex? What does it mean if a country has a higher ranking in the gender gap index?

However, there is a residual difference in earnings which cannot be explained by job differences and can probably be attributed to direct forms of wage discrimination. There is evidence that direct wage discrimination is greater in the developing countries and in the newly industrialized or industrializing countries that have not ratified the ILO Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100).

Disparity in earnings also extends to piecework done at home and to most agricultural wage work where women are found mainly in the low-skilled and casual jobs.

Women's Reliance on Self-Employment

Limited wage employment opportunities in the formal sector traditionally confine women to self-employment, particularly in subsistence agriculture, small artisanal work and in the urban informal sector.

Open the illustration in the right-hand column to see the share of self employed women among active women in 1995:

Then download and read the .pdf in the right-hand column in order to have some details on the situation of women in the informal sector in several regions of the world.

The economic crises of the 1980s, the late 1990s, and the late 2000s and the impact of stabilization and adjustment programmes, have led to declines in real wages and in full-time wage employment for both men and women. In urban areas, women – particularly of impoverished households – have been pushed into self employment partly in order to compensate for the loss or reduction of the incomes earned by their partners. They have occupied themselves mainly in micro-businesses in the informal sector.

However, self-employment at a micro level has largely failed to remain economically viable in rural areas due to

  • unfavourable terms of trade,
  • competition from big business,
  • lack of credit and inputs,
  • increasing landlessness and land scarcity, and
  • environmental pressures.

Such pressures compelled women to seek wage work, often as casual agricultural wage workers. This has been particularly the case for women heads of households who do not have enough labour and capital resources to work on their meagre land.

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