More work needed to end workplace discrimination for women: UN

Women are entering the global labour force in record numbers but they still face higher unemployment rates and lower wages, the United Nations labour agency has reported today.

A new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) prepared for International Women's Day, on 8 March, has found that women represented 60% of the world's 550 million working poor.

A separate updated analysis has found that, for women, crashing through the “glass ceiling” to top managerial jobs remained "slow, uneven and sometimes discouraging".

Juan Somavia, Director-General of the Geneva-based ILO, said: “These two reports provide a stark picture of the status of women in the world of work today. Women must have an equal chance of reaching the top of the jobs ladder.”

Mr Somavia warned that unless progress is made in taking women out of poverty by creating “productive and decent employment,” the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving poverty by 2015 will remain out of reach in most parts of the world.

Last year, some 1.1 billion of the world's 2.8 billion workers, or 40%, were women, representing an increase of nearly 200 million in the past 10 years, according to Global Employment Trends for Women 2004. But the explosive growth has not been accompanied by true economic empowerment for women, the report said.

While the gap in numbers has been closing in all regions since 1993, the rate has varied widely. In the transition economies and East Asia, the number of women working for pay per 100 men is 91 and 83 respectively, but in other regions such as the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, only 40 women per 100 men are economically active.

Of the world's 550 million working poor, those unable to lift themselves and their families above the $1 per day threshold, 330 million, or 60%, are women, the report says. Adding the 77.8 million women who are unemployed means that at least 400 million decent jobs would be needed to provide poor women with a way out of poverty.


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