August 21, 2015

Women make up over 50% of the non-agricultural workforce in 17 countries around the world

Latest figures from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) reveal there to be 17 countries where women now make up more than 50% of the non-agricultural working population, with notable clusters in the Caribbean and northern Europe.

The PRB’s 2015 World Population Data Sheet, which has a special focus on women’s empowerment, reveals marked regional differences, however. On average, in Asia and Africa women make up only 25% and 30% of non-agricultural workers, respectively, whereas the proportions reported for the Americas (45%), Oceania (47%), and Europe (48%) are much higher. 

Generous family-friendly social policies (e.g. paid maternity leave, government-funded childcare) are offered as reasons for the high rates of female workforce attachment in northern Europe (e.g. Finland and Iceland). Whereas, high female tertiary education rates, as found in Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados, are posited as a reason for the high levels of female labor force participation found in several Caribbean countries.

The former Soviet Republics of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Moldova, also reveal high participation rates; however, a negative factor seems to be driving this: low male life expectancy. In these countries, men die, on average, more than nine years earlier than women.

In his IZA World of Labor article on alcoholism and mortality in Eastern Europe, Evgeny Yakovlev recognizes the negative effect that excessive alcohol consumption has on male mortality rates and labor productivity in many Eastern European countries. He notes that “regulatory measures, such as taxation, sales restrictions, licensing, advertisement control, and drinking age limits” have been effective in lowering alcohol consumption, and that “[p]olicies that target the younger generation…can also have beneficial long-term consequences.”

But what can be done to address the low labor participation rates in Africa and Asia? Gianna Claudia Giannelli has investigated methods for supporting women’s paid work in developing countries. She notes that in those countries “[m]any women work unpaid in family businesses or on farms, are engaged in low-income self-employment activities, or work in low-paid wage employment.” She reports that training programs have been effective in boosting female employment and earnings in developing countries, but stresses that “programs that take into account how mothers’ employment affects child welfare” have mostly been lacking and recommends integrating training programs with the public provision of childcare to make it easier for women to engage in paid employment.

You can read more about this story in the Wall Street Journal.

Whereas, the PRB report can be read in full here.

Related articles:

Alcoholism and mortality in Eastern Europe, by Evgeny Yakovlev

Policies to support women’s paid work, by Gianna Claudia Giannelli