Future of Work - Major trends

Gender gap in participation rates is not expected to improve over the coming 15 years

In 2016, women made up 50 per cent of the global working-age population. Yet, a little less than half of them are engaged in the labour market, compared to more than three-quarters of men. Consequently, the global gap in participation rates between women and men stood at more than 26 percentage points in 2016 – a figure which is close to or exceeding 50 percentage points in Arab States, Southern Asia and Northern Africa. Looking ahead to 2030, based on current trends, there is little or no improvement expected in the gender gap at the global level. In fact, while some regions are expected to see modest improvements (e.g. Arab States), others will see increases (e.g. Eastern Asia). And of course, in many regions, even those with projected improvements, the gaps remain too large.

Figure: Gender gaps in participation rates, 2000, 2016 and 2030 (female-male, percentage points)

Source: ILO Trends Econometric Models.
There are reasons to believe that low female participation in the labour market has much to do with the quality of the jobs offered. Another critical factor underlying low female participation is the fact that unpaid work is undertaken predominantly by women as a result of economic, social and cultural constraints. Importantly, women’s lower participation rates translate into fewer employment opportunities, which negatively affects women’s earning capacity and economic security. Moving forward, by addressing these barriers and others, improving labour market participation rates of women and closing the gap at a much faster pace than is currently expected will help to reduce the slowdown in labour force growth.