Gender and employment

Promoting decent and productive employment and income opportunities equally for women and men is one of the key priorities of the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda. Integrating gender concerns into employment promotion can contribute to more effective boosting of productivity and economic growth; human resources development; sustainable development; and reducing poverty.

The ILO implements a gender mainstreaming strategy in employment promotion in line with the relevant International Labour Standards1 and Global Employment Agenda (GEA), and as called for by 2008 Social Justice Declaration, 2009 ILC Conclusions on Gender Equality at the Heart of Decent Work, and the Global Jobs Pact.

Why integrating gender equality concerns into employment promotion?

Despite some progress made over the last few decades in increasing women’s labour force participation and narrowing gender gaps in wages, gender equality in the world of work still remains an elusive goal. While millions of women have become successful entrepreneurs, women are still grossly underrepresented in the world’s board rooms. In particular, in the developing world, women continue to form a large majority of the world’s working poor, earn less income, and are more often affected by long-term unemployment than men. This is due to women’s socio-economic disadvantages caused by gender-based discrimination and their double roles of being a worker and a care taker for the society. Women often have less access to productive resources, education, and skills development and labour market opportunities than men in many societies. Largely, this is because of persistent social norms ascribing gender roles, which are often, slow to change. Furthermore, women continue to undertake most of unpaid care work, which has become an increasing challenge in their efforts to engage in productive work, both in subsistence agriculture and market economy, especially in countries which are negatively affected by environmental change and HIV and AIDS.

ILO’s life-cycle and rights-based approach in promoting gender equality in employment

A life-cycle and rights-based approach is promoted in promoting decent and productive employment and income opportunities equally for women and men. Girl child who faces discrimination in her early stages of life tends to accumulate socio-economic disadvantages, which can lead to reduced employability and higher poverty in her later life. Ensuring full human resources development, through equal access to education and skills development opportunities for youth could enhance their chances of higher employability, in particular, for young women. In adulthood, increasing employability of women and men through equal access to life-long learning and productive resources can also enhance their chances of obtaining decent and productive employment and income opportunities throughout their adult lives. This can also lead to better economic security in their old age. Creating inclusive labour markets adaptable to changing economic realities, but with equity and minimum employment and income security, can create more conducive environment for women’s enhanced labour participation and better income security, especially for older workers and persons with disability.

What the ILO does

Over the past two decades, a wealth of experience, lessons learned, tools and resource materials have been developed to address gender concerns in various intervention areas of employment promotion. The ILO provides technical support to the constituents through undertaking knowledge development and advocacy, tools development, capacity-building, policy advice, and technical cooperation projects for direct job creation, in particular, targeting poor women and men in the informal and rural economy and in post-crisis countries.

In order to institutionalize gender mainstreaming in all the areas of ILO’s work in employment promotion, a Gender Mainstreaming Strategy has been developed with an aim of ensuring that gender concerns are fully integrated in formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of employment policies, programmes, and other actions.


1. C. 122 Employment Policy (1964), C. 111 Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) (1958), and C. 100 Equal remuneration (1951)


  1. Working Paper

    Gender dimensions of national employment policies: A 24 country study

    18 November 2013

    The Working Paper is a joint undertaking of the Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch (GED) of the Working Conditions and Equality Department, and the Employment and Labour Markets Branch (EMPLAB) of the Employment Policy Department (EMPLOYMENT).

  2. Event

    Promoting Women in the Labor Market - Asia and Pacific Regional Workshop, Nostalg Ballroom, Oakwood Joy-Nostalg Center in Manila, Philippines

    17-18 June 2013

    The regional workshop, co-hosted by ILO, aims to share and discuss with ADB, ILO and DMCs the outcome and recommendations of the studies of the labor market, government policies and legislation conducted together with the recommendations made in the regional synthesis within the context of the global good practices reviews.

  3. Event

    Multiple Global Crises and Gender: Rethinking Alternative Paths for Development - An UNRISD Seminar

    25 June 2012

    UNRISD Seminar Series event with Devaki Jain, Naoko Otobe (ILO) and Mariama Williams (South Center) and an introduction from UNRISD Director Sarah Cook.
    Palais des Nations. Geneva.