Gender Equality & Decent Work

Priority Gender Issues in fundamental principles and rights at work

  • Employability of women. Ensure equal access to training, to the acquisition of new skills in order to break occupational segregation by sex and enable women to benefit from new technologies.
  • The eradication of poverty by addressing both the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of employment opportunities for women. Pay special attention to the vulnerability of women at different stages of the life cycle. And combat trafficking in women and girls.
  • Support to wage workers and the self-employed of the informal economy through innovative schemes.
  • Support to women in the area of management development and entrepreneurship.
  • The vulnerability of women to crises and the need to design specific responses which cater for the different needs of both men and women.

Priority Gender Issues in Employment and Income generation

  • An increasing number of governments have enacted legislation to comply with ILO standards, and in particular Conventions 100 and 111, but the gap between the de jure and the de facto situation of women is persistent. Based on these standards, the ILO calls for formal equality of rights as well as substantive equality.
  • The promotion of other international labour standards, such as those concerning maternity protection, workers with family responsibilities, safety and health, part-time workers and homeworkers, and the organization of rural workers has been used by women, both inside and outside the labour market, to gain visibility and exert pressure for change.
  • Equal access to productive resources.
  • The Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998) and its follow-up reinforces the promotion of the fundamental right of gender equality. The gender perspective will be integrated into the follow-up process in reporting and technical cooperation activities.

Priority Gender Issues in Social Protection

  • In the current socio-economic context, the primary objective of social protection is to reduce insecurity in the world of work: to ensure safe and decent conditions of work, to prevent poverty and social exclusion, to maintain incomes and ensure adequate access to care and social services for all.
  • Find solutions which eliminate discrimination in the application of the basic principles of social security, while extending coverage to those who are now excluded.
  • Ensure that the conditions of work are safe, healthy and decent. Occupational safety and health policies to ensure protection for all workers' health, while taking into account the specific needs of each category of workers, both women and men. Of specific interest to women are: maternity protection, the elimination of sexual harassment and violence at the workplace, and improving the work conditions in hazardous industries.
  • Develop practical measures to help men and women combine paid employment and care work and to support the access of women to paid work.
  • To improve the governance and efficiency of social security systems. Every worker needs a minimum level of social and income security, yet conventional social security schemes have tended to penalize women. It is necessary to strengthen social protection mechanisms that promote equality between men and women both at home and in the labour market.

Priority Gender Issues in Social Dialogue

  • Make gender equality issues visible on the agenda of social dialogue and that of tripartite institutions - governments, employers' organizations and trade unions.
  • Mainstream gender in the work of labour ministries, government agencies, employers' organizations and trade unions.
  • Outreach by the social partners to the informal sector, small enterprises and precarious workers to extend their representation. Build alliances with relevant women's organizations around programmes to promote gender equality
  • Gender balance in membership and in leadership and representation functions of the social partners.

ILO's operational activities

ILO's operational activities help its tripartite constituents to implement Decent Work agenda by responding to their needs and concerns at the national and regional levels. The ILO has a wide range of the means of action: standard-setting and monitoring, technical cooperation, advisory services, capacity-building, meetings and other promotional activities, research and publications, networking and dissemination of information.

Since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995), demand of the ILO constituents for support in the field of gender equality at work has been steadily growing, which is the evidence of the positive impact of gender awareness-raising activities and mainstreaming efforts. The ILO gender mainstreaming strategy consists of two integrated and complementary components: (i) gender concerns are mainstreamed into all programmes and projects; and (ii) targeted interventions, directed to either women, men or both, are designed to narrow existing gaps in gender equality and overcome the consequences of past discrimination.

Current targeted activities focus on the promotion of women workers’ rights, employment creation and poverty alleviation, on the provision of social protection to specific groups of women workers, on combating the trafficking of women and children, as well as on the increase of women’s role in social dialogue and collective bargaining.

An international programme More and Better Jobs for Women aims at helping countries to establish the environment promoting more and better jobs for women. It has a clear message that improvements in this area are economically and socially expedient; women's productive employment leads to the reduction of child labour and trafficking of women and children into exploitative forms of labour, and brings overall improvements of family welfare and poverty alleviation. The programme helps to formulate national action plans and to identify priority areas for legislative reform, employment promotion and social protection measures.

The main objective of the InFocus Programme on Boosting Employment through Small Enterprise Development (IFP/SEED) is to provide support services and advocacy to small and medium-sized enterprises in both formal and informal economies. The Women’s Entrepreneurship Development and Gender Equality unit (WEDGE) is created within IFP/SEED to increase economic opportunities for women in small business sector by improving their access to resources, credits, training opportunities, markets, decision-making and control mechanisms.

The ILO tools to support business development services, such as Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB), have been adapted to incorporate issues related to gender equality and to ensure that they meet the needs of women entrepreneurs. While acknowledging the success in meeting the needs of women entrepreneurs, SIYB also realized the importance of addressing the special concerns of men who were made redundant by state-owned enterprises and have withdrawn from economic activity.

The global programme Strategies and Tools against Social Exclusion (STEP) promotes the extension of innovative social protection measures for the most vulnerable groups and aims at reaching men and women who work in informal economies and are insufficiently protected by existing social security services.

In the light of the ongoing feminization of poverty, the ILO has developed a capacity-building programme on Gender, Poverty and Employment based on poverty eradication strategies with the triple objective of enhancing women's access to quality employment opportunities; strengthening their bargaining and negotiating power; and devising innovative social protection strategies, especially for less-organized workers such as those in the informal economy and home workers.

Programmes addressing the empowerment of women workers through trade unions’ organizations mainly concentrate on awareness raising and capacity-building of trade unions’ organizations to address women workers’ needs, and focusing on the training of women activists to take leadership roles. A special training package on Women Workers' Rights, as well as two resource kits for trade unions Gender Equality and Collective Bargaining and Promoting Gender Equality constitute a comprehensive tool on how to promote gender equality concerns through trade union organizations in the ILO member states and partner organizations.

The gender aspect of child labour problem singles out working girls as they are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and are more likely to be denied the right to education. The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) has carried out projects targeting girls in bonded labour, prostitution, domestic work and manufacturing. IPEC's goal is not just to remove individual children from work in which they are exploited, but to prevent new generations of children from entering the labour market.