February 15, 2016

Young women in developing countries face difficulty entering labor market, says ILO report

Being young and female presents a “double challenge” to finding a decent job in many developing countries, according to a new report from the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The report, published jointly with the MasterCard Foundation, studied youth populations aged 15–29 in 32 developing countries and found that 76% of the economically inactive population is female.

Meanwhile, the rate of young women not in employment, education, or training (NEET) is 30%—twice the rate for young men.

Young women in developing economies also earn as much as 36% less than men, and are more  likely to be in informal employment.

The report cites lack of resources, early marriages and pregnancy, and unrecognized unpaid work as barriers to women entering the jobs market, with 21% of young women attributing their economic inactivity to family and housework (the equivalent figure for men is 4%).

Commenting on the report, ILO’s Azita Berar Awad and Ann Miles of the MasterCard Foundation said: “Looking at these figures, we must conclude that while some progress has been made over time toward gender equality, in particular in access to education, the struggle for true equality in the world of work is still an uphill battle. It is time to rethink, find the approaches that work and then move to scale them up.”

Gianna Claudia Giannelli has written for IZA World of Labor about women’s access to paid work in developing countries, and the policy measures that might improve this. She writes that: “In some countries, vocational training or grants for starting a business have been effective policy tools for supporting women’s paid work. Mostly lacking, however, are job and business training programs that take into account how mothers’ employment affects child welfare. Access to free or subsidized public childcare can increase women’s labor force participation and improve children’s well-being.”

Elsewhere, the ILO’s Sher Verick has also written for us about female labor force participation in developing countries. He writes: “Standard labor force participation rates paint only a partial picture of women’s work. More important is understanding the quality of women’s employment. To achieve gains in employment quality, policies need to focus on both labor demand and supply dimensions. Expanding access to secondary and higher education is particularly relevant.”

The ILO/MasterCard Foundation report, Young and Female–A Double Strike?, can be accessed here.

Related articles:
Policies to support women’s paid work by Gianna Claudia Giannelli
Female labor force participation in developing countries by Sher Verick
Find more IZA World of Labor articles about development and gender