The Workforce and Women: Is it only a third world problem?

Anisha Hussain

Cummins College of Engineering for Women via Wikimedia Commons

Women make up just under half of the world’s population and there has been a great advance in their rights. However, has it gone far enough?

The change in the job market has meant there has been a greater need for different skills, skills in which cannot be taught but more so experienced. The inclusion and participation of women within the workforce is failing and it is a global issue.

The issue of gender equality has been a hot topic for the last few decades. From the end of the Second World War, the work place has become a sanctuary of hopes and dreams. But how does this effect equality and what does gender equality really mean?

To some it means that men and women should be able to do the same jobs and be paid the same, also known as the “Gender Pay Gap”, however to others it’s a means of getting the opportunity in the first place, as in many countries there has been little progression in the gender balancing of common careers such as Medicine and Law.

It is fair to say that women around the world face different forms of inequality within the work place, however we must analyse and compare the reasons as to why this is happening and what the benefits are for a woman to work.

Globally, women earn 24% less than men on average. However if analyse it further, it is evident that there is a smaller pay gap between men and women in the Middle East and North Africa than those in Developed regions such as the United Kingdom, where there is nearly a 30% gap between men and women.

Why is this?

Well, much of the focus tends to be on statistics, which do not account for majority of occupations. As noted, gender equality at work does not mean that outcomes for men and women should be similar, but more so the acknowledgement that there are careers out there which may require a different skill set, which are as equally important for the functioning of the society.

Without a doubt, having a job is more than economic benefits. Yes, of course it provides financial stability but it also adds value to ones life. It can increase an individual’s happiness and self esteem to empowering women. From educating a mind to living the impossible, the nature of working can broaden aspirations.

For society in general, for a woman to be in work it can lead to greater change in traditional definitions of gender roles and responsibilities. For example, looking at Bangladesh the expansion of job opportunities in the clothing sector has to lead to a massive increase in the possibility in schooling girls over the age of 10. Between 1983 and 2000, there has been a 27% increase in girls’ school enrolment rates due to clothing factories.

Now if we look at developed or western regions, the inclusion of women within the workplace has provided an empowerment in smart economics, which is associated with reducing poverty and a better education system. With Nordic countries leading the way for gender equality, they have proven that getting more women into work can boost growth by offsetting the impact of the shrinking workforce.

So yes, the stagnation of women within the workforce has decreased over the last decades in not only the third world but also the whole world. But how do we tackle this?

As Sydney J Harris once said “ the whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows” and these educational gains for women has been evidently linked to improvements in poverty and health care around the globe. We should emphasise the fact that not all degrees or forms of education leads to better jobs and the fact that increasing numbers in educational enrolment, may not be enough. However we cannot underestimate the contribution education has made for the expanding economic opportunities we have today.

With ever changing economy and the advancements in technology it is fair to say that we are now armed with better understanding of the costs of women within the workforce. Needless to say, there is much more work to be done in not only third world countries but developed regions such as the USA and UK.

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