What are the factors behind the labour force participation gap? Has the incorporation of women into the labour market been the same for women from different economic strata? What would be the economic benefits of stimulating the incorporation of women into the labour market? How can we reaccelerate closing the gender gap of labour force participation between men and women with quality jobs?
These are some of the questions that this document will attempt to answer, integrating the key conclusions of the studies carried out by three reference institutions: the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which has economically quantified the effects of a hypothetical reduction of the labour gap for Latin America based on two specific public policies; the International Labour Organization (ILO), which examines occupational segregation data and analyses its causes and consequences, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which looks beyond averages to analyse the existing differences in women’s labour participation based on the economic stratum to which they belong.
LARGE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN WOMEN: LESS AND WORSE WORK FOR THE POOREST
The results of this study lead us to believe that the incorporation of women into the labour market and the closing of this ominous gap between men and women could become one of the most important and necessary factors of change for the economies of Latin American and the Caribbean. But, for now, we still face very important challenges, which require an understanding and analysis of the different labour realities that Latin American women confront on a daily basis. What is their profile? Where do they work? What are their working conditions? What factors determine and limit their participation within the labour markets?
In this sense, it is very useful to break down the averages and analyze the situation of women of different income levels. The results of this analysis, developed by UNDP, show that the progress achieved over the last 15 years has not been distributed equally and that the gaps between women from different strata are far from closing.
WHEN WOMEN ARE CAREGIVERS AND MEN DRIVERS: OCCUPATIONAL SEGREGATION CONTINUES
With regard to occupational segregation, it appears that the existence of male and female positions persists as an indisputable reality in Latin America. A study prepared by ILO provides a detailed analysis of this reality. Despite the increasing educational levels of women, more than 80% of female workers are employed in low-productivity sectors (agriculture, commerce and services), and this proportion has not changed in the last 15 years. In medium-productivity sectors (construction, manufacturing and transport) and in high-productivity sectors (financial services, electricity and mining), close to the technological forefront and characterized by a higher educational level of employees, better working conditions and greater labour protection, female employment is much lower than male employment, with differences of over 20 percentage points.
A VERY POWERFUL LABOUR FORCE
The gender gap in labour participation has a significant cost in terms of economic growth, to such extent that it constitutes a large reserve of untapped human resources, which if brought to the market, would have substantial positive impacts on the GDP per capita of countries. This potential impact has increased over time (and continues to do so) as women continue to acquire more human capital with every passing generation.
To quantify this economic cost, the IDB conducted a study on female labour force participation and GDP that simulated the impact of certain public policies that reduced two of the main barriers that women face: a) childcare and child-rearing and b) access to higher productivity jobs.
The results were overwhelming. The implementation of childcare policies produces an increase in female labour force participation between 7% and 9%, depending on the country and the educational level of women. This increases GDP per capita in the range of 4% to 6%. In addition, applying policies that increase average female productivity by 10% would have a considerable impact on GDP per capita in the range of 15% to 25%
A NEW GENERATION OF EQUALITY POLICIES
Despite the advances in female labour force participation in the last 50 years, we need to step on the accelerator in order to eliminate the many labour market barriers that women continue to face and close the gaps that still exist between men and women in practically all labour indicators. To promote this process, it is essential to issue a call to action for public policies and actions in the corporate and labour world as well as in the public space and in the household. Based on the diagnosis presented by the three institutions (UNDP, IDB and ILO), an approach has been proposed below for the construction of the policies that attempt to break the sectoral silos. Therefore, actions are presented for each income tertile in four public policies sectors: active employment policies, social protection policies, care policies and policies that transform social norms in the educational and sociocultural world.