Caregiving burden holding women back in jobs: UN

A banner of an International Women's Day photo exhibition in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The United Nations' International Labour Organisation reported that nearly 22 per cent of women - compared with only 1.5 per cent of men - of working age worldwide perfo
A banner of an International Women's Day photo exhibition in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The United Nations' International Labour Organisation reported that nearly 22 per cent of women - compared with only 1.5 per cent of men - of working age worldwide perform full-time, unpaid care work.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GENEVA • Progress towards gender parity at work has barely budged for the past quarter-century, and will speed up only when men take on far more unpaid caregiving tasks, the UN said on the eve of International Women's Day.

The UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) said in a fresh report yesterday that the difference in employment rates for men and women has shrunk by less than 2 per cent in the past 27 years.

Last year, women still remained 26 percentage points less likely to be in employment than men, despite opinion polls indicating that far more women would prefer to have a job than to stay at home, the report showed.

The ILO said there were a number of factors blocking equality in employment - the biggest being the heavy caregiving burden borne by women.

"In the last 20 years, the amount of time women spent on unpaid care and domestic work has hardly fallen, and men's has increased by just eight minutes a day," said ILO's Ms Manuela Tomei.

At this pace, she said, "it will take more than 200 years to achieve equality in time spent in unpaid care work".

According to the report, nearly 22 per cent of women of working age worldwide - or 647 million - perform unpaid care work on a full-time basis, with the level as high as 60 per cent in Arab states.

By comparison, only 41 million men - 1.5 per cent of them - carry out such work on a full-time basis, the report found.

And women in the workplace also carry out far more of unpaid caregiving and chores at home.

"The imbalanced division of work within the household between men and women is one of the most resilient features of gender inequality," the report said.

Globally, women perform more than three-quarters of the total time spent on unpaid care work, and dedicate on average four hours and 25 minutes each day to unremunerated caregiving, compared with one hour and 23 minutes for men.

The ILO said this uneven burden is largely responsible for the so-called "motherhood employment penalty", with mothers of young children far less likely than their childless counterparts to hold a job.

At the same time, the ILO report said the gender wage gap remains at an average of 20 per cent globally, and is nearly double that in countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2019, with the headline 'Caregiving burden holding women back in jobs: UN'. Print Edition | Subscribe