Women denied equal pay despite being highly educated

New York, April 16 (IANS) Women are at par with men in education but have failed to secure equal access to quality jobs and representation in the government, finds a global study that suggests the need for greater policy interventions to close gender barriers.

The findings, from more than 150 countries, showed that women have reached 91 percent of the education that men have.

Yet, they have reached only 70 percent of the male rate of employment.

In more than half the world’s countries, female education rates are now similar, or greater, than men, up from 33 percent in 1990.

Despite these gains, the paper published in the Journal of African Development, showed that women’s employment rates are 30 percent lower than men’s – even less in some regions of Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

The share of women employed in the relatively high-paying industrial sector compared to men has dropped 20 percentage points since 1990.

“Men have more of the high paying jobs, so women are squeezed into lower-paid positions. And female unemployment continues to be about 30 percent higher than men’s, worldwide; so those women are not able to earn their own livelihood,” said Stephanie Seguino, economist at University of Vermont in US.

Greater exclusion from high-paying jobs and a disproportionate amount of unpaid household work, including care for children and ageing parents, offer two key reasons for women’s lower employment and income, the researchers said.

Further, the gender gap is seen to be widest in political representation.

Overall, women share of parliamentary seats is 25 percent compared to men’s.

But, political representation for women has increased from 14 percent in 1990 when compared to men.

Legislative bodies in some nations, including Haiti and Qatar, still have no female members.

Whereas countries such as Canada, Rwanda, Norway have adopted political gender based quotas to improve female representation in government.

“Without women, governments are more likely to spend taxpayer money in ways that disproportionately benefit men – or at least ignore the extra burdens on women,” Seguino explained.

Researchers suggested that policy changes are needed to level gender disparities.

Potential policy solutions include affordable childcare, paid parental leave, diverse hiring practices, public transportation access, rural health clinics, and even gender quotas, they indicated.

For the study, the team analysed global data from the World Bank, the International Labour Organisation and other key sources from 1990-2010.

The researchers measured gender inequality in three key categories: capability (education and health data), livelihoods (employment, job segregation, and other economic indicators), and agency, as measured by parliamentary seats and other forms of political representation.

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