in 2021 only 43% of women will have a job

Female garment industry worker in a factory in Nicaragua. ILO / MARcel Crozet

Geneva, Jul 19 (UNNEW) – Gender inequality in the world of work worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic, disproportionately hitting the occupation and income of women, and will not change in the near future, she said Monday. the International Labor Organization (ILO).

According to the new global projections of that UN agency, in 2021 only 43.2% of women of working age will have a job, while 68.6% of men will be working, a level that recovers the Male occupation index prior to the health emergency.

The ILO explained that although female employment will grow faster than that of men next year, it will not be enough to compensate for the loss suffered by the pandemic and the level of employment will not reach the 2019 mark.

The data from the new analysis of the specialized agency indicate that between 2019 and 2020, the employment of women decreased by 4.2%, that is, they lost 54 million jobs, while that of men fell by 3% , or 60 million jobs.

The publication “Advancing reconstruction with more equity” explains that the disproportionate loss of jobs and income for women was due to their excessive presence in the most affected economic sectors, such as hospitality and manufacturing services.

The women of America were the most affected

The ILO highlights that in terms of impact by regions, America recorded the greatest loss of women’s jobs due to the pandemic, with 9.4% of jobs lost, compared to a 7% drop in the case of men.

“The fall in women’s employment has disrupted the progress observed in the last fifteen years thanks to the improvement of educational opportunities for women, the increase in the availability of formal jobs in the service sector, the migration from rural areas to urban areas and the decline in fertility rates ”, points out the analysis.

Likewise, it estimates that only 46.8% of women will have a job in 2021. Among men, the rate will reach 66.2%.

The decline in the American continent was followed by the Arab States with 4.1%, and Asia and the Pacific with 3.8% for women, compared to 1.8% and 2.9% for men, respectively.

In Europe and Central Asia, the pandemic reduced female employment by 2.5% and 1.9%, respectively; while in Africa it also decreased 1.9%, compared to just 0.1% in the case of men.

Low quality of employment

According to the UN agency, the large gender gaps in the quality of employment are evident: the majority of working women have to accept low wages, long working hours, few opportunities for promotion, exposure to health risks and safety at work, vulnerability to violence and harassment.

Furthermore, a large part of female employment occurs in sectors in the informal economy.

The study recalls that women continue to earn 20% less than men and see their wages more penalized when they belong to ethnic minorities, are migrants or have a disability.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit those at the bottom of the pay scale more than those at the top, and in particular women, who are disproportionately represented in low-paying jobs,” the agency stresses. .

Employment protection measures

Calculations based on a sample of 28 European countries reveal that without wage subsidies, women would have lost 8.1% of their wages in the second quarter of 2020, compared to 5.4% for men.

As for women working in the informal economy, the pandemic altered their means of earning a living as many businesses without formal registration had to close temporarily or permanently, pushing many of their workers into poverty.

The ILO stated that the employment situation of women was significantly better in countries that took measures to prevent them from losing their jobs and being able to return to work as soon as possible.

He cites the cases of Colombia and Chile, where salary subsidies were applied to new hires, with higher subsidy rates for hiring women. Colombia and Senegal, among others, created or strengthened assistance to women entrepreneurs. In many cases, such as Mexico or Kenya, quotas were established for women to benefit from public employment programs.


The ILO maintains that in order to build a fairer future it is necessary to put gender equality at the center of recovery strategies and recommends a series of measures:

  • Investing in the care economy because the health, welfare and education sectors are important generators of employment, especially for women, and also because care leave policies and flexible work formulas can foster a division more uniform work-at-home between women and men
  • Work for universal access to comprehensive, adequate and sustainable social protection for all, in order to reduce the current gender gap in social protection coverage
  • Promote equal pay for work of equal value
  • Eradicate violence and harassment from the world of work. Domestic violence and work-related gender-based violence and harassment have worsened with the pandemic, further undermining women’s ability to participate in paid employment
  • Promote greater participation of women in decision-making bodies, social dialogue and the institutions of the social partners



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