NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Most women around the world would prefer to be working at paid jobs, and nearly as many men agree with them, even in regions with traditionally fewer women in the workforce, according to research released on Tuesday (March 7).
Only a third of women and men would prefer to see women stay at home, said the report by the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) and US polling organisation Gallup.
Half of the world's working age women participate in the labour market, compared with three-quarters of men, the ILO said.
Those levels vary by region, with only a quarter or less of women in the workforce in South Asia, North Africa and Arab states.
The research, based on interviews in 2016 with almost 149,000 adults in 142 countries and territories, was aimed at understanding the factors affecting women's participation in the labour force.
"Against the backdrop of the significant progress women have made in the world of work, there is much yet to accomplish," the report said. "Over the decades, the benefits that women's economic empowerment brings to individuals, families and societies as a whole have become clear, and yet gender equality has not been achieved anywhere."
Worldwide, 70 per cent of women and 66 per cent of men would prefer that women work at paid jobs, it said.
Even where women are less present in the workforce, 57 per cent of men in North Africa and 52 per cent of men in Arab states said they would prefer to see women do both - have paid jobs as well as care for their families.
The gender wage gap globally was estimated at 23 per cent, meaning on average women earn 77 per cent of what men earn, according to ILO data.
The research found the pay gap is unrelated to a country's level of economic development and cannot be explained by differences in education, experience, age or career breaks.
It attributed the gap instead to "pervasive discrimination - conscious or unconscious - against women".
Balancing work and family was cited as the biggest challenge in developed and emerging economies, and unfair treatment at work the biggest concern in developing economies.
The findings could help governments, employers and workers' organisations keen to tap into women's talent, the report said, calling for training for women and raising men's awareness about the benefits of an increased household income.