G20 Labour and Employment Ministers Meeting

Women have not recovered their employment as much as men in most G20 economies

At the G20 Labour and Employment Ministers meeting in Catania, Italy, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder presented the findings of a joint ILO-OECD report on recent trends in women’s employment and policy developments to reduce the gender labour force participation gap by 25 per cent by 2025.

Statement | 22 June 2021

It is my pleasure to present the findings of our joint report with the OECD, reviewing recent trends in women’s employment and policy developments to reduce the gender labour force participation gap by 25 per cent by 2025, in line with the G20 Brisbane Goal.

The key issue before us now will be preventing the negative impact of the crisis on gender equality from persisting for a very long period of time.

If you look at this graphic you will see the recent trends in reducing the gender gap in labour force participation. This slide reviews progress made from 2012 to 2020.

The blue bars show the progress made, which has been mixed.

The bars around the blue bars show where we would have been if we had continued the progress made before the pandemic.

And the green dots show the required rate of improvement in order to get to the Brisbane goal.

As you see, some are on track; some are not.

This slide shows the declines in numbers of persons at work, and total hours worked, both in April 2020 and in February 2021.

The clear picture is that at the onset of the crisis, women were disproportionately hit by losses in jobs and hours of work in most G20 economies, basically because of their greater representation in the sectors most affected by lockdown measures.

This is shown by the blue bars on this slide.

We’re also seeing that as G20 economies recovered, there has been a return to employment that has benefitted women as much as men, as shown by the orange dots on the slide. But both employment levels and hours worked still remain below pre-pandemic levels in all countries. And in most countries, men have recovered more than women.

Gender gaps in job quality have also remained substantial.
  • The gender pay gap is substantial and remains high in all G20 countries, between 5 and 40 per cent. When adjusted for education, the gap is even larger.
  • Women are twice as likely as men to be in low paid jobs.
  • Women continue to be under-represented in leadership positions across the G20, in a range from 15 to 45 percent of all managerial jobs.
  • The share of women in informal employment is greater than men’s in 8 out of the 12 G20 countries where we have data. Women work as contributing family workers, in domestic work or in own-account work - the lowest echelons of the informal economy.
  • In addition women employees are more likely to hold a temporary contract in 10 out of 18 G20 countries for which we have data. In addition, women’s share in self-employment is on average 7½ percentage points lower than for men.
  • The distribution of hours of work, paid and unpaid, is another source of gender gaps at work:
  • In all G20 countries, men are more likely to work very long hours in paid employment, but women bear the brunt of unpaid work. However, variations are large between countries, from 1 hour and 15 minutes a day in Canada to 4 hours and 50 minutes a day in India.
The unequal distribution of unpaid work at home limits women’s availability for paid employment. Women are therefore more likely to be employed for very short hours when they often wish to work longer, paid hours.
To increase women’s participation in the labour market many G20 countries have continued to focus on improving work and family balance for working parents, especially working mothers. Other measures have included subsidies to encourage women’s hiring, and the removal of restrictions to women’s access to certain occupations.

Looking to the improvement of women’s earnings, the promotion of women in STEM studies and better-paid STEM occupations has been one important avenue of action. A number of G20 countries have passed national legislation on pay transparency and reporting, or enacted proactive equal pay laws that shift the onus of proving non-discrimination to the employer. Upward adjustments to minimum wages in a number of G20 countries have helped reduce the gender pay gap at the bottom of the pay scale.

Women’s labour market security has been enhanced by facilitating women’s transition from informal to formal employment; extending the scope of anti-discrimination provisions to protect workers who file complaints; and providing financial support towards women’s travel costs.

In respect of working conditions, a number of G20 countries have expanded the duration of care leave provisions. For example, France increased paternity leave from seven to 28 days, while Spain raised the length of both paternity and maternity leave to 16 weeks. As well as encouraging greater fathers’ engagement in childminding, these measures also help to equalize the “cost” of recruiting men and women. Several G20 countries are also taking steps to address violence and harassment at work, including by engaging in national ratification processes of ILO Convention 190. A big thank you to Argentina for its recent ratification of that Convention.

While many emergency measures taken in response to the crisis have been gender neutral, some measures have been addressed in particular to the gender impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

China has extended the coverage of unemployment insurance to increase the share of women benefitting, while other G20 countries have provided support for households at risk of poverty and social exclusion, including households with victims of domestic violence.

Other emergency policy measures have focussed on care needs support by providing parental and child-care allowances for workers with family responsibilities or by extending paid sick leave provisions for reasons related to COVID-19.

In respect of frontline workers, in particular health and care workers - the majority of whom are women - some governments have provided additional allowances or pay rises either on a temporary or permanent basis.

With an increase in mandated teleworking, countries like Italy have launched training programmes to improve digital skills for women workers.

It must be said though that many of these measures are short-term emergency actions and largely inadequate to reverse the full impact of the pandemic. And yet we know that improving the quality of women’s work is essential to attracting and retaining more women in employment and thus achieving the Brisbane target.
Finally let me turn to policy orientations for a recovery that advances a transformative agenda for gender equality. We have five such considerations as shown here.

Firstly, we need greater investments in the care economy. The pandemic has painfully shown us the inadequacy of the current situation. The infrastructure and working conditions in the health and social sectors, which are important generators of jobs especially for women, require our urgent attention. Well-designed care leave policies to rebalance the unequal gender division of labour at home are equally important.

Secondly, employment policies that focus on women are key to promoting the recovery of hard-hit sectors that employ large numbers of women.

Thirdly, working towards universal access to comprehensive and adequate social protection. Policy action should tackle the current very wide gender gaps in social protection coverage.

Fourthly, equal pay for work of equal value to make paid employment more attractive to women. Besides being a matter of social justice, this is key. A number of G20 countries are moving in this direction and have joined the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) and we hope that others will follow suit.

Finally, the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work. The pandemic has generated a spike in cases of cyber bullying, domestic violence and physical and verbal assaults to health workers, among others. Again, let me reiterate that the ratification and implementation of ILO Convention No. 190 is a concrete answer to prevent and address this scourge.

Thank you.