World Bank Group reports that women face persistent gender gaps at work

24 FEBRUARY 2014 | WASHINGTON, DC

According to a new report by the World Bank Group- Gender at Work, women around the world face huge gender gaps at work and by virtually every global measure, are more economically excluded than men. Trends suggest women's labour force participation worldwide over the last two decades has stagnated, dropping from 57 to 55 percent globally. This is despite accumulating evidence that jobs benefit women, families, businesses, and communities.

The report, a companion to the 2013 World Development Report on jobs, notes that since women face multiple constraints to jobs, starting early and extending throughout their lives, progressive, broad-based, and coordinated policy action is needed to close gender gaps. Common constraints women face include lack of mobility, time, and skills, exposure to violence, and the absence of basic legal rights.

Gender at Work also finds that legal discrimination is a remarkably common barrier to women’s work. Restrictive laws can hinder women’s ability to access institutions, own or use property, build credit, or get a job. In 15 countries, women still require their husbands’ consent to work.

To address these inequalities, the report recommends a range of policies for governments to consider over a woman’s lifetime, saying interventions that focus only on women of productive age start too late and end too early.

The report also provides regional perspectives on challenges and opportunities for gender equality along with a list of ten global facts everyone should know in order to understand gender at work.

These are:

  • Women's labour force participation has stagnated, in fact decreasing from 57 percent in 1990 to 55 percent in 2012.
  • Women on average earn between 10 and 30 percent less than working men.
  • Women are only half as likely as men to have full-time wage jobs for an employer.
  • In only five of the 114 countries for which data are available have women reached or surpassed gender parity with men in such occupations as legislators, senior officials, and managers; namely, Colombia, Fiji, Jamaica, Lesotho, and the Philippines.
  • Women spend at least twice as much time as men on unpaid domestic work such as caring and housework.
  • A total of 128 countries have at least one sex-based legal differentiation, meaning women and men cannot function in the world of work in the same way; in 54 countries, women face five or more legal differences.
  • Across developing countries, there is a nine percentage point gap between women and men in having an account at a formal financial institution.
  • More than one in three women has experienced either physical or sexual violence by a partner or non-partner sexual violence.
  • In 2010-12, 42 countries reported gender gaps in secondary school enrolment rates exceeding 10 percent.
  • One in three girls in developing countries is married before reaching her 18th birthday.
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