Number of unemployed women to soar amid economic crisis, warns UN agency

Women picking tea in the Nilgiri Mountains, India

5 March 2009 – The global economic crisis will plunge a further 22 million women into unemployment and make decent work for women increasingly more difficult to find in 2009, predicted a new United Nations report issued today.

The International Labour Office (ILO) launched its annual Global Employment Trends for Women (GET) report in advance of International Women’s Day on 8 March, calling for “creative solutions” to close the gender gap.

“Gender inequality in the world of work has long been with us, but it is likely that it will be exacerbated by the crisis,” warned the agency’s Director-General Juan Somavia.

“In times of economic upheaval, women often experience the negative consequences more rapidly and are slower to enjoy the benefits of recovery,” he said, adding that “before the crisis, the majority of working women were in the informal economy with lower earnings and less social protection.”

The GET report noted that of the 3 billion employed people across the world, slightly over a 40 per cent are women, and that the global unemployment rate for women could reach 7.4 per cent in 2009, compared to 7 per cent for men.

The biggest difference in unemployment rates between men and women due to the economic meltdown will be felt by women in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the ILO report.

The new publication also projected that the ratio of women pushed into insecure jobs this year would be greater than men, with the global vulnerability employment rate ranging from 50.5 to 54.7 per cent for women and 47.2 to 51.8 per cent for men.

“Women’s lower employment rates, weaker control over property and resources, concentration in informal and vulnerable forms of employment with lower earnings, and less social protection, all place women in a weaker position than men to weather the crises,” said Jane Hodges, ILO Bureau for Gender Equality Director.


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