World of Work Summit: A better future for women at work

Malta’s President calls on the global community to take urgent action on gender equality

“The global economy will continue to suffer greatly, if women continue to be excluded,” said the President of Malta, H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, at the ILO’s World of Work Summit.

Press release | 15 June 2017

GENEVA (ILO News) – The President of Malta, Her Excellency, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, has called on the international community to take urgent action “to accelerate gender equality and equitable participation in the economy.”

“Gender inequality is not only a pressing issue of moral significance. It is a challenge of critical importance to our economies,” the Maltese President told delegates at the International Labour Conference’s (ILC) World of Work Summit in Geneva. The President’s remarks followed a High-Level Panel discussion on how to shape a better future for women at work.

In his introductory note to Summit, the ILO Director-General described the Maltese head of State “as a feminist President whose ambition is to lead by example”. He particularly lauded her Government’s hard work “to reduce gender gaps in labour force participation and in the quality of work, making significant efforts to retain working mothers in the labour force and to promote enterprise-level gender equality plans in the workplace”.

The President of Malta stressed the urgent need to close the gender gap around the globe.

“Even after decades of progress to ensure the equal representation of women alongside men in social, economic, and political spheres, the gap between men and women remains unacceptably wide,” President Coleiro Preca said. “The global economy will continue to suffer greatly, if women continue to be excluded.”

An International Labour Organization (ILO) report published yesterday highlights the importance of advancing women’s equality. In 2014, G20 leaders made a commitment to reduce the gap in participation rates between men and women by 25 per cent by the year 2025.

The report, World Employment and Social Outlook (WESO) – Trends for Women 2017, estimates that if this goal was realized at the global level, it has the potential to add US$ 5.8 trillion to the global economy and increase tax revenue by US$ 1.5 trillion. Yet in 2017, the global labour force participation rate for women – at just over 49 per cent – is nearly 27 percentage points lower than the rate for men, and is forecast to remain unchanged in 2018.

The President emphasized the important role that business communities worldwide have to play in helping to close gender gaps.

“I urge the private sector to focus on the substantial economic opportunities, which we all stand to gain from, by achieving gender parity. Moreover, we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that gender disparities in the world of work are simply a problem for developing nations. The gender pay gap in developed countries is also a cause of great concern,” she said.

“I believe, at this critical time in the history of our world, we must work together to create a legacy of social, political, and economic empowerment for women. In order to achieve this goal, we must promote policies that highlight a healthy work-life balance as part-and-parcel of decent and dignified work conditions for women.”

The President cited Malta as an example of how legislation, structures and policies target the needs of women. The country gives working women free access to child care centers. Last year’s Eurostat figures showed that Malta experienced the largest employment increase of any other EU member state, which has had direct benefits for women of working age, she said.

Focus on all women

In this context, Coleiro Preca noted that it was important to also “focus our attention on those women who face multiple levels of exclusion from dignified work. In particular, we must stand by the women and girls who have been caught up in migration.”

“Migration is often a desperate way to escape poverty, precarity, and conflict. For many women, migration creates its own risks such as exposure to modern forms of slavery, which include exploitative work, abuse, and increased vulnerability to violence,” she said.

The President of Malta also highlighted the importance of ensuring proper access to education for all girls and women in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.

“The SDGs present us with a roadmap for the future, by encouraging and empowering us to take action, particularly on behalf of, and with, the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the oppressed,” she said.

To achieve gender equality, many more women must be included in positions of social and political influence, President Coleiro Preca added. “This must be paralleled by an increase in the number of women who hold managerial and policy-making positions. Women’s voices must be heard, and women’s needs must be acted upon at all levels of influence.”