G20 Education and Employment Ministers’ Meeting

Lower the barriers facing women in labour market

In remarks to G20 Education and Employment Ministers in Argentina, Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization, outlined what’s needed to achieve gender equality in the changing world of work.

Statement | 07 September 2018
© Tom Percy
(PowerPoint Presentation: Slide 1: Introduction)
Thank you very much. Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to introduce this all-important topic.

I will focus my remarks on the particular set of issues which concerns care work – because if women are to benefit from equality of opportunity in our changing world of work, we have to reengineer the relationship between parenthood, unpaid care work and paid employment. We need to lower the structural barriers that women face in labour markets arising from their status as mothers or potential mothers. Elements of this have already been put in place in a number of G20 countries, but they need to be scaled up and become more integrated.

(Slide 2: Mothers of children aged 0-5 are considerably less likely to be employed than fathers)

If you look at this graphic it shows that in all G20 countries without exception, mothers of children aged up to 5 years, represented by the blue bar, have the lowest employment rates compared with fathers in the same situation, represented by the orange bar, as well as compared to men and women without children or with older children.

In contrast, fathers of young children report the highest employment rates compared to all the other groups. In other words, Colleagues, parenthood results in “an employment premium” for fathers, who are more likely to work, and an “employment penalty” for mothers. We believe that this reflects both societal views of mothers’ and fathers’ role in the home and at work, and the lack of family-friendly public and workplace policies.

(Slide 3: Unpaid care work is one of the main reasons for women being outside the labour force)

These thoughts are confirmed by this graphic which shows that in all G20 countries for which data is available, unpaid care work is amongst the main reasons for women not being in employment or not seeking a job, while for men, unpaid care is the least important factor.

(Slide 4: ...and when women are in employment, they work considerably shorter hours than men because they spend more time in domestic chores and care work)

Unpaid care work and domestic chores are also an important determinant of the time available for women and men to engage in paid employment.

The blue part of the diagram represents unpaid work, the red part paid work. If you look at the totality of the bars and aggregate work paid and unpaid, it’s always women that end up doing most.

(Slide 5: The motherhood wage penalty)

I spoke earlier about the fatherhood premium in employment. There is also a wage penalty for mothers, while fatherhood entails a wage premium in all G20 countries for which information is available. This shows the difference between the hourly wages of mothers and non-mothers country by country, while the fatherhood gap shows the higher hourly wages of fathers, country by country.

So what you saw on the employment side is replicated in pay as well.

(Slide 6: Managing parenthood, unpaid care work and paid employment more smartly)

So what should we do about all that? We believe that if the gender participation gap is to be reduced by 25 percentage points by 2025 as the G20 leaders committed to do in the Brisbane Summit in 2014, we need policies related to “parenthood”, unpaid care work and paid employment that encourage much more equal sharing of family-related responsibilities. I have to say that this is particularly important in societies that are aging rapidly, where care demands are intensifying correspondingly.

First, we need more investments in improving both the coverage and quality of child care and elder care services. This would in addition create a significant number of new jobs, as care workers are not easily replaced by robots.

We also need to adjust the duration of paternity and parental leave entitlements, as well as income replacement levels, to ensure that maternity leave does not penalize women’s reintegration in the labour markets, that fathers take paternity leave, and that parents share parental leave more evenly.

Family-friendly flexible working time arrangements, ranging from part-time to telework, can also be effective measures. Here too their design needs to ensure that they do not undermine the training opportunities and career prospects of those workers who use them.

Social protection systems need to be both care-friendly and gender-responsive. Measures introduced in a number of G20 countries, for example to reduce the impact of part-time employment on pension levels, or to provide childcare allowances for unemployed or informal workers, certainly go in the right direction.

Life-long learning needs to have a flexible approach that accommodates workers’ care responsibilities over their lives.

Finally, colleagues, rewarding fairly those jobs in which women are over-represented is an additional way of lowering the gender disadvantage. Recent initiatives in the area of minimum wage fixing are actually quite telling. To take the example of South Africa, for instance, women stand to benefit the most from the new minimum wage, as women hold more than half of all jobs paid below that level, in spite of the fact that a majority of wage earners are men.

Thank you for your attention.