Commission on the Status of Women
28 February 1995
COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
New York, 15 March-4 April 1995
Item 3 (b) of the provisional agenda*
PREPARATIONS FOR THE FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN: ACTION
FOR EQUALITY, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE: REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NAIROBI FORWARD-LOOKING STRATEGIES
FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN
Second review and appraisal of the implementation of the Nairobi
Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women
Report of the Secretary-General
II. CRITICAL AREAS OF CONCERN
F. Inequality in women's access to and participation in the
definition of economic structures and policies and the
productive process itself
1. The Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women
envisage a wide range of measures to increase women's access to and
participation in the economy. They stress women's equal right to work and to
receive benefits, including maternity benefits and the right to return to
work. Employment was one of the three sub-themes of the United Nations Decade
for Women and the Forward-looking Strategies set out a series of measures to
ensure equal employment opportunities (paras. 132-147). They include the
importance of enabling women to obtain "jobs involving more skills and
responsibility, including those at the managerial level". They recommend
changes in the structure of work that would allow women and men to reconcile
productive and reproductive responsibilities. They call for the elimination
of all forms of discrimination in employment, including in wages, and for
breaking down gender-based occupational segregation. They call for the
recognition of the contribution of older women.
2. The Forward-looking Strategies emphasize that women's economic
independence is a necessary condition for their advancement. They assert that
"economic independence is a necessary precondition for self-reliance" (para.
113) and that it is necessary to seek the participation of women as equal
partners with men in all fields of work, equal access to all positions of
employment, equal opportunities for education and training, and the protection
of women at work and to recognize the need for women to be highly productive
producers and managers of political, economic and social affairs. However,
the Strategies make no direct reference to the importance of women's
participation in economic decision-making. In some chapters, passing
references are made to women managers and women entrepreneurs under the
objectives of equality and development.
3. Discrimination promotes an uneconomic use of women's talents and
therefore wastes the valuable human resources necessary for development.
Ultimately, it is recognized that society is the loser if the talents of women
are underutilized as a result of discrimination. Exclusion of women from
policy-making and decision-making also makes it difficult for women and
women's organizations to include their preferences and interests in the
largely male-dominated decisions on economic policies.
4. In examining the progress made, the first review and appraisal concluded
and recommended: 1/
"5. Women have always been an important part of the workforce and their
role will continue to grow with development, industrialization, economic
necessity and the expansion of women's access to the economy. In most
countries, however, the participation of women and men in the economy
continues to be unequal, characterized by job segregation, insufficient
training opportunities, unequal pay for work of equal value, inadequate
career prospects and lack of full participation in economic decision-
"Recommendation IV. Governments, non-governmental organizations and
private-sector enterprises should take special measures to increase the
proportion of women involved in economic decision-making, including
studies on the incidence of women in such positions in the public and
private sectors, the promotion of training programmes, analysis of
alternative policies to provide women with careers leading to economic
decision-making, and the adjustment of national legislation.
"The United Nations should study the incidence of women in economic
decision-making world wide, analyse innovative national programmes to
increase the proportion of women in economic decision-making positions
and publicize the results, within existing resources.
"Recommendation V. Governments and other appropriate parties should
make efforts to increase the number of women in paid employment,
including the adoption of measures to eliminate sex segregation in the
labour market and to improve women's working conditions. Governments
and other appropriate parties should collect, maintain and improve
statistics showing the relative remuneration of women and men. They
should renew their efforts to close the gap between women's and men's
pay, possibly by 1995, and take special measures to address the
principle of equal pay for work of equal value. They should also take
concrete steps to measure the economic value of women's unpaid work with
a view to taking it into account in national policies by 1995.
"The United Nations system should complete work on methodological
aspects of measuring pay inequities between women and men, unpaid work
and work in the informal sector and should publish studies of countries
where such measurements have been made.
"10. An economic environment of growth with equitable distribution, both
at the national level and in the international economic system, is
essential, as is the recognition of women's full participation. The
feminization of poverty reflects the underlying structural problems
faced by women in the midst of economic change. Prevailing economic
policies at the national and international levels have frequently failed
to take into account potential negative effects on women or women's
potential contribution and have accordingly not succeeded.
"Recommendation VII. In order to help revitalize economic growth,
international economic and social cooperation, together with sound
economic policies, should be pursued. Structural adjustment and other
economic reform measures should be designed and implemented so as to
promote the full participation of women in the development process,
while avoiding the negative economic and social effects. They should be
accompanied by policies giving women equal access to credit, productive
inputs, markets and decision-making and this should be incorporated
fully into national economic policy and planning.
"The international development strategy for the fourth United
Nations development decade should take full account of women's
contribution and potential and this should be an important part of
monitoring its implementation. Relevant organizations of the United
Nations system should continue to examine the effects of national and
international economic policies on social progress, in particular the
condition of women in developing countries.
"11. The incorporation of women into the labour force has occurred on a
scale unimaginable 30 years ago. Nevertheless, given unfavourable
economic conditions in developing countries, the majority of women
remain or are increasing in number in the informal sector of the
"Recommendation VIII. Governmental policies, non-governmental
action and international cooperation should be directed towards
supporting programmes to improve the living conditions of women in the
"These programmes should contribute, among other things, to the
incorporation into the informal sector of appropriate technologies which
could increase production in that sector and make domestic and
international markets more accessible. Women in the informal sector
should be encouraged to organize themselves so that they know their
rights and are able to obtain the necessary support to exercise them.
"Appropriate organizations at the international level should gather
more detailed and accurate information related to women in the informal
sector in order to identify the most efficient measures to ameliorate
"19. Urbanization, migration and economic changes have increased the
proportion of families headed by women and the number of women entering
the labour force. These women have experienced increasing difficulties
in harmonizing their economic role with the demands on them to provide
care for children and dependants. The double burden, rather than being
reduced by greater sharing between spouses, has increased. Unless it is
reduced, women will not be able to play their full and fair role in
"Recommendation XVII. Governments and other appropriate bodies
should, by 1995, establish social support measures with the aim of
facilitating the combination of parental and other caring
responsibilities and paid employment, including policies for the
provision of services and measures to increase the sharing of such
responsibilities by men and women and to deal with specific problems of
female-headed households that include dependants."
1. Growth in female employment
5. During the past decade, female participation in the labour market has
grown at an average of 10 per cent in all the regions of the world, twice the
rate of their male counterparts. Women's representation in the economically
active population increased considerably from 1970 to 1990 (see table II.F.1).
6. In most parts of the world, women are no longer a "reserve" labour
force; women are increasingly becoming the workers who remain economically
active throughout their working lives. The trend towards increased female
participation in the labour force is a stable one, occurring at the same time
as the economic activity rates for men have been falling.
7. In the countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD), there were 169.4 million women in the labour force in
1992, some 33 million more than in 1980. The economic participation of women
Table II.F.1. Average ratio of women to men in the economically
active population, 1970-1990, by region
(Number of women for each 100 men)
Region 1970 1980 1990
Africa 39 58 71
Latin America and the
Caribbean 35 48 62
Western Europe and others 45 60 72
Asia and the Pacific 28 42 48
Eastern Europe 79 81 85
World 37 52 62
2 per cent per annum, twice the rate of that of men, whose participation rate
has been falling. In the United States of America, Canada, Denmark, Finland,
Norway and Sweden, women make up almost half of the labour force. Female
employment has grown faster than the growth of the female labour force.
8. In Central and Eastern Europe, during the process of transition, female
labour force participation has remained high. In spite of the economic
decline, the participation of women in the labour force, especially women
between the ages of 20 and 49, has not declined more than that of men. The
labour force surveys conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO)
in the Russian Federation have found that, in the first phase of employment
restructuring, women's share of employment in industry actually increased
because they were inclined to keep their state sector jobs longer than men.
In the transition economies in Asia, the proportion of the female population
that is economically active has increased. In China, for example, the
increase was from 49 per cent in 1980 to 54 per cent in 1990.
9. In the developing countries, conceptual and methodological constraints
and conventional labour force definitions and statistical systems still do not
adequately reflect women's productive work in the non-market economy, as
producers in subsistence agriculture and in the urban and rural informal
sector. However, in spite of the fact that much of the work done by women
continues to be invisible, official statistics also confirm the increase in
the female share of the labour force. For example, in Latin America and the
Caribbean, the proportion of women in the labour force rose from 24 to 29 per
cent between 1970 and 1990. In East and South-East Asia, women constitute 80
per cent of the workforce in the export-processing zones. In Africa,
unofficial research data indicate high participation rates for women, who
account for most of the food producers and those engaged in small-scale
10. Gender differentials diminished between 1980 and 1990, with patterns
varying between regions and countries. In spite of these differences, the
number of women in the workforce increased almost continuously between 1970
and 1990. Countries that initially had the lowest rates of participation
tended to experience the highest rates of increase. Women aged 15 and over
currently make up about 41 per cent of the world's labour force. 2/
(a) Demographic factors
11. Demographic factors must be taken into consideration when examining
trends in productive employment. ILO predicts that the workforce will grow
from 2.4 billion persons in 1990 to 3.2 billion in 2010, a 35 per cent
increase. The growth will take place disproportionately in most developing
regions, with very little growth in the developed countries. It is estimated
that the workforce in countries like Pakistan and Mexico will grow at about 3
per cent a year in the coming years. In contrast, growth rates in the United
States of America, Canada and Japan will be lower, and in most of the European
countries they will perhaps decline.
12. Predictions also indicate that women will enter the workforce in greater
numbers, especially in most of the developing countries, where relatively few
women have been absorbed to date. An increase is not expected in Europe, with
the exception of the Mediterranean countries. Women will be responsible for
maintaining rates of labour force participation in both developed and
developing countries. These patterns are not only related to higher fertility
rates in the developing countries but also reflect a growing trend of women
leaving home for paid employment.
(b) Changes in attitudes towards paid work
13. The increased activity of women of reproductive age - 25 to 49 years -
is another contributing factor to the higher rate of participation of women.
Experience during the period 1980-1990 shows that women in this age group, as
had been the case in 1970, were primarily responsible for the growth in the
workforce in the European Union countries. This demonstrates a major change
in social attitudes about the participation in the labour market of women of
14. Between 1984 and 1991, the average rate of participation of women with
children increased from 50 per cent to more than 60 per cent in the European
Union countries. The rate also increased for childless women, from 71 to
75 per cent over the same period. In Spain and Portugal, activity rates for
women with and without children doubled between 1987 and 1991. The same
phenomenon was noted in Latin America.
15. In the developing countries, the effect of women's changing attitudes
towards work has received relatively little attention from researchers,
although women are increasingly involved in economically productive
activities. Increased communication systems reaching into remote, isolated
areas, expanded education opportunities, changing family patterns, extensive
migration and explosion of urban environments have affected the labour
markets. Urbanization, industrialization and migration contributed to
increased numbers of women working outside the home. In these countries, the
percentage of women in the paid labour force increased from 28 per cent in
1950 to 41 per cent in 1993.
16. The Human Development Report, 1993 provides indicators of females as a
percentage of males in the labour force in some countries of Asia. There are
high rates of participation in many countries, for example, Singapore
(64 per cent), Thailand (88 per cent) and Mongolia (83 per cent).
17. Declines in female rates of participation are anticipated in sub-Saharan
Africa, while increases are expected in North Africa and in Latin America and
the Caribbean. This may be related to patterns of emigration of the female
labour force to other regions.
18. Obstacles to increased rates of participation by women remain.
Non-sharing of responsibilities in the family and the lack of social services
in both developed and developing countries pose serious problems. The
majority of women must combine economically productive work with the care of
their children, or of disabled or elderly people. The burden of this
responsibility restricts the options for women.
2. Employment structure and women
19. There are gender differentials in rates of participation in sectors and
occupations, although women's participation is increasing in those sectors
that have the highest rates of growth. For the period 1970 to 1990, the rate
of participation of women approached that of men in professional and technical
and administrative and management occupations. The ratio of women to men in
those occupations increased considerably in all regions, except in Eastern
Europe where, in 1970, the ratio of women to men was already high (see table
Table II.F.2. Average ratio of women to men in professional and
technical and administrative and management
occupations, 1970-1990, by region
(Number of women for each 100 men)
Region 1970 1980 1990
Africa 19 40 56
Latin America and the
Caribbean 50 82 85
Western Europe and others 45 60 72
Asia and the Pacific 28 42 48
Eastern Europe 79 81 85
World 37 52 62
20. Global trends confirm that women are entering professional and technical
occupations in large numbers (see table II.F.3). Rates increased from
11.94 per cent of working women in 1970 to 13.17 per cent in 1990. The
proportion of women professionals is particularly high in Latin America and
Eastern and Western Europe, closing the gap between men and women.
Table II.F.3. Occupational category by sex, 1970, 1980, 1990,
1970 1980 1990
Occupational group Women Men Women Men Women Men
and technical 11.9 5.6 11.8 6.6 13.2 8.2
and management 0.8 2.1 0.3 2.5 1.8 3.2
Clerical 10.8 5.9 11.8 5.7 13.3 6.5
Sales 7.8 6.0 0.9 5.3 9.9 7.2
Service 18.3 5.9 13.6 6.2 14.6 6.8
Agriculture 27.0 33.5 29.1 32.7 24.7 28.0
Production 14.5 32.1 29.7 29.7 12.6 31.7
unemployed 6.1 6.3 9.5 7.5 9.0 7.5
21. Shifts in female participation in the labour force between 1970 and 1990
should be noted. Women's employment in the traditional service sector
declined during the period, corresponding to the increase in the clerical,
professional and technical sectors. There was an increase in women's
employment in the production sector between 1970 and 1980 and a decrease from
1980 to 1990. The decline in women's and men's participation in agriculture
is also evident.
22. In Africa, the ratio of women to men in agriculture grew from 68 to
71 per cent. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the ratio increased from 16
to 19 per cent, in Western Europe from 42 to 54 per cent and in Asia from 45
to 47 per cent. There was a decline in the ratio of women's to men's
participation in agricultural employment in Eastern Europe, from 105 to 84 per
cent. Eastern Europe has by far, the most equal rates of participation for
women and men in agriculture (see table II.F.4).
Table II.F.4. Average ratio of women to men in agriculture,
1980-1990, by region
(Number of women for each 100 men)
Region 1980 1990
Africa 68 71
Latin America and the Caribbean 16 19
Western Europe and others 42 54
Asia and the Pacific 45 47
Eastern Europe 105 84
23. When comparing the distribution of occupations between the female and
male economically active population, a different picture arises. According to
table II.F.3, the world-wide trend between 1980 and 1990 was towards a
decrease in agricultural employment. Globally, 32.7 per cent of the male
labour force was employed in agriculture in 1980 and 28.0 per cent in 1990.
For women, the rates were 29.1 per cent in 1980 and 24.7 per cent in 1990.
Asia and Africa still have the greatest number of people employed in this
24. There were more men than women employed in the production sector in
1990, with 31.7 per cent of men against 12.6 per cent of women. A large
decline in the proportion of women working in this sector occurred between
1980 and 1990, from 29.7 to 12.6 per cent (see table II.F.3). Economies in
Asia and Africa tended to employ an increasing number of women in the
production sector between 1970 and 1980. In Latin America, female employment
in production declined between 1970 and 1990. Despite improvements, the ratio
of women to men working in this sector is low in all regions (see table
25. Other conclusions can be drawn from the available data. The effects of
the increase in the level of education in the previous decades were reflected
in the growing number of women employed in professional and technical
occupations, primarily in services. Younger women and those with skills have
been better received in the service sector. The increase in professional and
technical positions in certain regions demonstrates this trend. Less educated
women are likely to be in a disadvantageous position.
26. In the report of Indonesia it is noted that there has been a marked
increase in women's employment in the non-agricultural sectors during the
1980s. However, the increase in female non-agricultural employment has been
largely confined to trade and, to a smaller extent, to manufacturing and
services. In manufacturing, the number of women per 100 men actually fell
slightly, from 78 to 77.
Table II.F.5. Average ratio of women to men in production,
1980-1990, by region
(Number of women for each 100 men)
Region 1980 1990
Africa 16 27
Latin America and the Caribbean 19 24
Western Europe and others 17 20
Asia and the Pacific 25 21
Eastern Europe 34 45
27. Employment in manufacturing grew by 73 per cent between 1980 and 1990,
but most of the new job opportunities were filled by younger women in urban
areas. However, the growth in factory employment was even more rapid for
males. This may be due to the fact that export-oriented industrialization
policies have tended to favour larger-scale enterprises. By contrast, many
traditional manufacturing industries, particularly those located in rural
areas which are more numerous, more labour intensive and employ a larger
proportion of women, especially during slack periods in the agricultural
cycle, have stagnated under the pressure of increased competition. 3/ The
pattern may change in the future. The establishment of the South and North
Growth Triangles in the region covered by the Association of South-East Asian
Nations (ASEAN), together with new export zones in other areas of Indonesia,
can be expected to favour female employment. Policies to support the
manufacture of handicrafts may also increase the employment of women in
(a) Segregation in employment
28. In both developed and developing countries, gender-based segregation by
occupation remains very high. Growth in the female share of the labour market
has not had a significant impact on the mechanism of segregation.
29. The 1993 Employment Report of the Commission of the European Union
states that the results of the past decade are a kind of paradox. In all 12
countries, at a time when the extent of men and women's involvement in the
labour market has become more similar, inequalities in employment still exist.
Market segregation has persisted in the type of work done as well as in the
sectors in which expansion of work undertaken predominantly by women has
30. In Asia, where the feminization of employment is a fact and where
employment has grown faster for women than for men, gender-based differentials
also exist in most countries. Women's employment grew in manufacturing,
services and trade, but the majority of women in the region are absorbed in
subsistence agriculture as unpaid family labour and unskilled agriculture
31. The 1993 report of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) network on
the situation of women in the labour market demonstrates that rising female
participation throughout the European Community has not reduced and is not
likely to reduce occupational segregation and labour market inequality by
gender. No evidence was found to suggest that higher female participation in
the labour force or higher levels of economic development would reduce
segregation. Over-representation of women in service and clerical work was
not evident in some other countries, and the number of women in professional
occupations was as high, if not higher, in some developing countries.
32. Even the very high participation rates of women in the Eastern European
countries has not led to an integrated labour market. Women in Eastern
European countries were concentrated in female occupations and
underrepresented in science, technology and leadership positions.
33. Occupational segregation is likely to remain a persistent characteristic
of all labour markets, and a characteristic that needs to be taken into
account in all types of employment analyses. Despite the broadly similar
patterns of occupational segregation, there were sufficient differences
between countries to suggest that social, cultural and labour market forces
within each country play an important role in shaping the form and degree of
34. If the distribution of women's employment is considered by seven major
occupation groups - professional and technical, administrative and managerial,
clerical, sales, services, agriculture, and production - it can be noted that
women are concentrated in clerical, services and professional and technical
occupations. In Chile, where women made up 30.5 per cent of the labour force
in 1991, they represented 51.3 per cent of service workers; in Canada, where
women made up 45.3 per cent of the labour force, they represented 55.7 per
cent of professional and technical workers, 80.7 per cent of clerical workers
and 56.6 per cent of those in services.
35. Country differences persist in the extent of feminization of many
clerical and service jobs, differences associated with social and cultural
organization, industrial structure, union organization, the prevalence of
part-time work and labour market organization, among other factors. Women are
particularly likely to remain excluded from certain service occupations, where
the job has retained its craft and skilled status or where men are still
interested in maintaining access to service or clerical careers.
36. The prospects for the future, without major new policy initiatives, are
a continuation of the dual trend towards the greater integration of women into
higher-level jobs and the increasing concentration of the remaining female
labour force in lower-grade and highly feminized sectors. These trends will
not remove the problem of inequalities between the sexes in the upper echelons
of the labour market; they will, however, add the problem of increasing
inequalities within the female workforce itself.
(b) Service sector
37. In the 1980s, the service sector began to attract women in many regions
and countries. In the OECD countries, for example, most of the new jobs
created during that period were in services and benefited women. Women's
employment in the service sector world wide grew more rapidly over time than
that for men. This accounts in large part for the overall increase in the
growth of female employment in the past decade. Studies show that countries
with the fastest growth in female employment have combined public sector
activities with business and financial services.
Table II.F.6. Average ratio of women to men in services,
1980-1990, by region
(Number of women for each 100 men)
Region 1980 1990
Africa 55 75
Latin America and the Caribbean 156 184
Western Europe and others 206 200
Asia and the Pacific 49 68
Eastern Europe 32 31
(c) Atypical and/or precarious employment
38. Over the past decade, in both developed and developing countries,
economic processes caused a situation that resulted in the limited creation of
stable, full-time jobs. The majority of newly created jobs have tended to be
atypical. As it turned out, these atypical employment patterns correlate with
the feminization of the labour force. According to ILO studies, an increasing
number of women are entering small and medium-sized enterprises in the
informal sector, are taking part-time or temporary jobs or are engaged in
teleworking, subcontracting or self-employment. Some women are taking such
jobs because of flexible hours, which make it convenient for them to reconcile
work and family responsibilities. However, for growing numbers of women,
part-time or temporary work is not voluntary.
39. Although there has been some progress in the industrialized countries,
especially in the public sector, in extending social protection to part-time
workers, on the whole, part-time and other non-standard forms of employment
are accompanied by low pay, lack of rights, no opportunities for training and
no promotion prospects. Part-time employment is concentrated in the service
sector, where the majority of workers are women. Therefore, it is not
surprising that the majority of part-time workers are women. In the OECD
countries, women constitute between 65 and 90 per cent of part-time workers.
In 1991-1992, 62 per cent of all women workers were employed on a part-time
basis in the Netherlands and more than 40 per cent in Australia, Norway,
Sweden and the United Kingdom. In Spain, some 38 per cent of all female
workers are temporary, as compared to 29 per cent of employed men. The
proportion of women among home workers range from 90-95 per cent in Germany,
Greece, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands, to 84 per cent in France, 75 per
cent in Spain and 70 per cent in the United Kingdom. 4/
40. In Africa, women tend to be concentrated in small-scale,
under-capitalized, low-productivity market trade and personal service
activities. In West Africa, women make up between 60 and 80 per cent of the
urban labour force in trading and dominate in small-scale trading.
41. In Latin America, there is a growing incidence of part-time employment
among women. In Asia, women commonly dominate in hawking and trading
activities. According to ILO studies, there has recently been an increase in
women's involvement in micro or small-scale production activities and
home-based activities, as self-employed or piece-rate workers. In Indonesia,
for example, more than one fifth of all women in the workforce are in trading,
although this is the least lucrative of the self-employment activities.
42. The growth in female employment that occurred during the past decade did
not generate a corresponding drop in unemployment. The creation of jobs and
steady unemployment coexisted. Though more men than women are openly
unemployed because of their larger numbers in the labour force, women's
unemployment rates tend to be higher than those of men. In the majority of
the OECD countries, women's unemployment rates exceed those of men. In 1992,
the recorded unemployment rate for women in Europe was 11.5 per cent as
compared to the overall rate of 9.9 per cent. 5/ Such conclusions are based
on the definition of "unemployed", which includes the following criteria:
being without work, having looked actively for work in a recent period, and
being available for work almost at once. This definition is restrictive, as
it excludes part-time workers who want to work full-time, discouraged workers
who say that job-search is fruitless, and those who need more than one or two
weeks before they can start working. If all those factors were taken into
account, the overall gap between female and male unemployment rates would only
43. The transition in the Central and Eastern European countries increased
unemployment among women. Loss of employment by women in those countries
often means more than loss of income. Women in that region have achieved a
high educational level and have been in the paid labour force for a long
period of time. Only Hungary reported a higher unemployment rate for men than
for women. In the Russian Federation, the share of women among the unemployed
has reached a particularly high level, estimated at 70-80 per cent.
44. In Africa, the rates of open unemployment for women are often double
those for men and have been rising, according to ILO observations. In Egypt,
for example, the female rate of unemployment in 1991 was 27.8 per cent as
compared to only 6.3 per cent for males.
45. The same situation exists in the Asian and Pacific region. In Sri
Lanka, for instance, the 1992 unemployment rate was 21.0 per cent for women as
compared to 10.6 per cent for men. In Pakistan, the 1990-1991 unemployment
rate was 13.8 per cent for women and 3.9 per cent for men in rural areas and
27.8 per cent for women and 5.9 per cent for men in urban areas.
46. If absolute levels of unemployment are considered, the gender gap is
rather large in some Latin American and Caribbean countries. In addition, the
mean period of unemployment is longer for women than for men - 11.2 months as
compared to 8 months.
47. In most countries, the rate of unemployment has risen more for women
than for men and the unemployment gender gap exists in every region. The
largest increase was in Latin America. According to studies from Eastern
Europe, female unemployment also rose in that region, with the exception of
Hungary, where the position of women is strong in the service sector and women
were not replaced by men in service activities. A lower rate of female
unemployment appears in Africa and Asia. Although the ratio of unemployed
women to men decreased in Asia, indicators show an increase of women listed as
(e) Wage differentials
48. The principle of equal remuneration is included in the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as in
various ILO conventions and recommendations. Moreover, the ILO Convention
concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal
Value, 1951 (No. 100) has one of the highest ratification rates of all ILO
standards. However, the gap between female and male earnings represents one
of the most persistent forms of discrimination against women. The pattern of
unequal remuneration is universal, although the level of inequality varies
from place to place.
49. In industrialized countries, women receive 70-80 per cent of the hourly
pay rates of men. In India, Japan and the Republic of Korea, women receive
about half the pay of men. According to ILO data for the manufacturing
sector, contained in the 1990 Yearbook of Labour Statistics, the ratio world
wide ranged from 50 to 90 per cent in 1990.
50. In Asia, the male-female gap is wider in manufacturing (64.8 per cent)
and non-agricultural jobs (68.2 per cent), in Latin America and the Caribbean
in non-agricultural jobs (68.7 per cent) and in Africa, in agriculture
(69.2 per cent), with a large decrease in women's wages in some cases. In
Asia, the ratio of women's to men's wages in the non-agricultural and
manufacturing sectors decreased from 91.5 to 68.2 per cent and from 72 to 64.8
per cent, respectively, between 1970 and 1990. In Latin America and the
Caribbean, the income of women declined compared to that of men between 1970
and 1990, with the largest decline in production.
51. There were decreases in women's wages in the agricultural sector in some
countries in Africa and in the manufacturing sector in Latin America and the
Caribbean. These were related to the trend towards informalization in many
developing economies experiencing recession and adjustment. Wages and
salaries from the formal sector are no longer sufficient to cover the basic
needs of households in many countries. This has implications for women in
terms of the additional pressure for them to work outside the home.
52. Increases in women's wages were noted in the non-agricultural sector in
Africa, Western Europe and Eastern Europe, which demonstrate the advancement
of women in the service sector. In Africa, the increase in the ratio of
women's to men's wages was from 61.5 per cent in 1970 to 89.4 per cent in
1990, in Western Europe, the ratio increased from 68.8 per cent in 1970 to
78.3 per cent in 1990 and in Eastern Europe, from 69.2 per cent in 1970 to
75.4 per cent in 1990.
53. In the manufacturing sector, over the same period of time, women's wages
increased in Africa from 63.50 per cent in 1970 to 73.3 per cent in 1990, in
Western Europe, from 66.0 per cent in 1970 to 74.6 per cent in 1990, and in
Eastern Europe from 68.8 per cent in 1970 to 72.8 per cent in 1990.
54. The gap between wages paid to men and wages paid to women also exists in
the 12 member States of the European Community. Between 1980 and 1988, it
remained constant in several countries, whereas in others, some progress has
been recorded. In the industrialized world, women earn from 50 to 80 per cent
the amount that men earn. Several factors contribute to this phenomenon:
women work more often in sectors where salaries are lower and where they have
less access to senior positions. There are several theories to explain these
factors; these theories are not mutually exclusive, but rather complement each
other. Studies show that some of the discrepancies in wages between men and
women can be explained by differences in training, professional experience and
age. Other differences can be attributed to an unequal breakdown in sectors
of activities, professions and training levels. Other differences are not
explained and are the result of various forms of discrimination, direct or
3. Rural women
55. Women play important roles in agricultural production, comprising
67 per cent of the agricultural labour force in the developing countries. In
sub-Saharan Africa, almost 80 per cent of all economically active women are in
the agricultural sector. In Asia, in such countries as Indonesia, Malaysia,
Nepal and Pakistan, women constitute about 40 per cent of the agricultural
labour force, and in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Turkey, up to 50 per cent.
56. The most important change in the agricultural sector occurred with the
introduction of cash crops, which took place in Africa and Latin America.
These paid jobs were offered primarily to men, while women were left to
cultivate food crops on increasingly marginal land. In addition, women are
often not trained for such new activities and lack the basic resources that
men have when they start to work in new areas.
57. Women produce 50 per cent of the food grown world wide; in Africa, they
produce an estimated 70 per cent of the continent's food. In addition to crop
production, rural women obtain food from many other sources. In many parts of
the world, women have the primary responsibility for food gathering from
communal lands and forests in order to supplement family diets and income.
58. In most countries, livestock husbandry is also the responsibility of
women. Although men often remain the owners and sellers of large livestock,
the bulk of domestic labour related to animals is the responsibility of women.
In Pakistan, for example, women are responsible for 60 to 80 per cent of the
cleaning, feeding and milking of livestock.
59. Rural women tend to be consistently underserved and difficult to reach
with development resources. Owing to the traditional division of labour and
the persistent discrimination against women, even available scarce resources
favour more men than women.
60. Rural women constitute the group that has benefited least from
industrialization and urbanization and often tend to be the worst hit by the
effects of rural-urban migration. While men are leaving for the cities to
seek employment, women are left on their own in rural areas, assuming
increased responsibilities in subsistence food production and for their
families' well-being. Rural-urban migration in Africa, Asia and the Pacific
and the Middle East is dominated by men. Only in Latin America and the
Caribbean do women, especially those young and single, represent the
overwhelming majority in migration flows to the cities. The main reason for
rural women in Latin America to migrate to the cities is the lack of access to
land and the mechanization of agriculture, as well as the presence of job
opportunities in the cities, especially in textiles and food-processing, and
in the informal sector, in domestic services and street vending.
61. In several countries of Asia, teenage and young women are increasingly
joining the rural-urban migration. In the Philippines, for example, 7 out of
10 females employed in the service sector in urban areas are migrants.
62. In many parts of the world, agricultural policies have been translated
into increased poverty in rural areas, with farming families needing to
supplement their income through diversified income-generating activities,
through migration to urban areas and through attempts to expand production by
cultivating marginal land, and converting food crop land into cash-crop
production. The impact on women varies from the need to fit additional work
into an already full and tiring day, to taking on the agricultural work of an
absent husband, to additional responsibilities on a husband's enlarged plot or
new production scheme, to the loss of an independent income from her personal
plot which has been taken over for family production.
63. The lack of adequate data on women's roles, both productive and
reproductive, has contributed to the continuing under-estimation and
undervaluing of rural women's contribution to economic production and growth.
In addition, concepts and classifications commonly used for data collection do
not reflect small-scale or subsistence agriculture, ignoring important parts
of women's work and of overall economic production.
(a) Access to and control of land
64. Gender asymmetries in access to land remain one of the main obstacles to
the full participation of women in rural development. Inheritance practices,
whereby land traditionally passes from father to son, reinforce male control
of land. Although many developing countries have passed statutes legally
affirming a woman's fundamental right to own land, in practice female control
of land is rare. Indeed, reform measures have not been gender neutral and
women have been excluded in varying degrees either legally or by de facto
measures. Bestowing rights on heads of household, as for example, on land
that was formerly held communally, has overridden a variety of former land
inheritance patterns in some countries and reinforced discriminatory practices
against women. Moreover, in many countries, there is no legislative provision
for widowed, separated or divorced women.
65. Women typically farm small, dispersed or remote plots of fragmented land
in which they have little incentive to invest or adopt new technologies. In
most countries, land titles are registered in the name of the male heads of
household and women do not have secure land tenure. The fact that women do
not own land may mean that they cannot get access to agricultural support
services, particularly credit and extension services where land ownership is a
requirement or extension workers are reluctant to work with small, isolated
66. The difficulties experienced by rural women in securing access to land
are even greater for women heads of household. Review of land reform
programmes in various countries indicates that, regardless of whether the sex
of the beneficiary is specified by law, women heads of household seldom have
access to land even when their productive activities call for it. Without
title to land, those women lack the collateral necessary to obtain credit and
may face difficulties in obtaining extensions.
67. The findings of the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural
Development (WCARRD) include the following points as issues critical to
women's access to land:
(a) High population pressure and increased commercialization of
agriculture result in less equitable distribution of land rights under
communal tenure; women's land rights are often eroded;
(b) Growing population pressure has, for example, neutralized efforts
to improve women's land rights in sub-Saharan Africa; women are managing
smaller plots as the land quality deteriorates;
(c) Land redistribution programmes usually target the household unit,
with little attention to the distribution of land within the household and to
women's special needs;
(d) Land titling adversely affects poor rural women. Titles, usually
registered in the names of male heads of household, diminish women's customary
rights of land use and transfer. Consequences for women's traditional
independent farming practices vary; they are often undermined, while
intra-household gender disparities in income and decision-making increase. In
some cases in Africa, men take advantage of their greater control over land to
redesignate land formerly cultivated by women as household land. This
provides the opportunity to increase male demands for female household labour
on male-controlled household plots. In other cases, women receive smaller and
less fertile household plots as their personal plots;
(e) The privatization of common property resources can have a
disproportionately negative impact on poor rural women since fuel and fodder
gathering are primarily female tasks. The same applies to materials for
handicrafts, which are an important income-generating activity for rural
68. In spite of the negative prospects for rural women, national machineries
have been successful in promoting innovative initiatives in some countries in
the Indian subcontinent, Central and South America and West Africa. There has
been a major policy change on agrarian reform in recent years, whereby women
have often been defined as the beneficiaries, and granted the right to own
land either jointly or with men. Legal changes are allowing a small number of
women in various developing countries to take steps towards gaining access to
and control over the land they farm.
69. The improvement of women's legal access to land is a basic prerequisite
for the success of rural development policies. Activities that could be
considered for the improvement of women's access to and control over land
include legal literacy training for both women and men on women's rights,
research on legislative reforms for rural areas, removing barriers to the
effective implementation of existing laws, focusing on ways to improve women's
participation in self-help and cooperative groups, enhancing productivity to
create incentives for women to invest in the land they cultivate, and
encouraging Governments to invest in women's labour and in meeting their
(b) Access to labour
70. Command over labour resources is a factor that critically impacts on the
real and potential productivity of women in agriculture. The amount of land
they can cultivate is directly related to labour availability - their own,
that of other family members and hired labour. The considerably longer labour
hours of women and limited access to paid labour because of the lack of
financial resources complicates the potential expansion of agricultural
production even where women have traditional, and often seasonal, rights to
husband's labour for such tasks as helping to clear their individual plots.
Moreover, increasing rates of male out-migration imply that the availability
of men, even for limited labour inputs, is reduced. The labour availability
of young women is also declining as they migrate to urban areas in search of
employment and improved lifestyles.
71. Women's access to land is dependent on their willingness to provide
domestic labour and to help in agricultural and off-farm activities controlled
by their husbands and senior family members. Men can mobilize the labour of
wives and children in male-controlled productive activities, whereas women may
only have access to daughters and younger sons. The need to draw on the
labour of offspring may influence children's, especially girls', rates of
school attendance, and, in the longer term, impact on the perpetuation of
(c) Incorporation of sustainable development techniques into productive
72. The interrelationship between women, environment and development has
been increasingly recognized. In most developing countries, food production
is undertaken mainly by women, and therefore, issues related to food security,
land rights and environmentally sustainable land-use practices are central to
their lives. Gender imbalances in access to resources impact negatively on
their ability to play vital custodial roles in sustainable environment
73. Environmental deterioration has reached significant proportions over the
past decade. The main causes are rapid population growth, increased pressure
on land, deforestation, shifting cultivation and desertification. The
depletion of forestry resources, in particular, has had a significant negative
impact on women. Apart from their value as a productive resource, trees
protect the quality of the soil and water and most tropical farming systems
are unsustainable without trees as part of the system. Forests provide food,
fodder and fibre - products that fall within women's responsibility.
Small-scale enterprises dependent on forestry products are among the major
employers of rural women, particularly the landless and resource poor.
74. It is essential to learn from rural women about conservation and
management of the environment and to take their indigenous knowledge into
account when developing concrete policies and projects. However, their often
excessive utilization of natural resources is frequently stipulated by the
lack of access to appropriate technology.
75. Rural women are in great need of labour-saving techniques, convenient
and close access to water resources and the introduction of such collective
facilities as community wood lots and grain mills.
(d) Access to appropriate and affordable technology
76. New agricultural technologies should be accessible, environmentally
appropriate and preferably utilize local materials. They should maximize
efficiency without threatening women's and men's jobs in the rural sector.
New agricultural technologies include new crop varieties and breeds of
livestock, and improved tools, cultivation methods, including consistent
access to draught animals, and mechanization practices.
77. A review of projects over the past decade reveals that technology, if
not carefully evaluated before introduction and use, can have unforeseen
negative effects on women. In many parts of the developing world, the
mechanization of agriculture, for example the use of tractors, has resulted in
the masculinization of modern agriculture and the feminization of labour in
subsistence agriculture or on family farms. Another unforeseen negative
impact on women results from certain types of irrigation technology: although
irrigation technology can increase crop production and make water more readily
available to households and livestock, in some cases it can affect women
negatively by increasing the time needed to transplant crops, weed and
harvest. New technologies can also be too expensive for resource-poor rural
women to buy. One way to solve this problem is to learn from the traditional
practices of rural women and minimize the use of expensive technology. The
upgrading of traditional food-processing techniques can be undertaken without
resorting to expensive technology.
78. Rural women have a rich traditional knowledge of the production,
processing storage and nutritional characteristics of a wide range of crops
and wild plants, methods of soil conservation and enrichment, and issues
related to the rearing of livestock. Such stores of knowledge must be tapped.
(e) Credit and financial services that address rural women's unique
79. Among the barriers to women's access to credit and financial markets are
the assumptions that women farmers do not make cropping and input decisions
even when they are heads of household, that their primary involvement in
subsistence production limits the time they can devote to market-oriented
activities, that they pose a high credit risk and that they can absorb only
small loans which carry high administrative costs for financial institutions.
Comprehensive programmes of agricultural or seasonal credit which provide for
group guarantees sometimes fail to extend credit to poorer women and men
because of the fear that group guarantee mechanisms will be jeopardized by the
risk associated with the inclusion of poor subsistence farmers. Moreover,
women have limited access to cooperatives and other organizations through
which credit may be channelled to farmers.
80. Women's access to credit is often limited by their lack of proper
education, as they often do not know the appropriate procedures, as well as
lack of collateral and the distant location of credit facilities. In the vast
majority of cases, they must rely on their husbands and male relatives, or on
money-lenders who tend to charge high interest rates. On the whole, banks
have tended to underestimate the productivity of women farmers and their
ability to repay loans. The marketable surplus that often results from
subsistence production is not taken into account nor is the fact that
productivity-enhancing inputs can increase the volume of this marketable
81. The extent of the barriers to rural women's access to credit and
financial services is perhaps best exemplified by the proportion of
multilateral bank loans to agriculture and rural development that reach them:
in 1990, US$ 5.8 billion was allocated to agriculture and rural development in
the developing countries. Of this figure, 5 per cent reached rural women even
though they grow more than 50 per cent of the food in the developing world and
have repayment records that are usually higher than those of men. Women's
World Banking, with affiliates in 44 countries, has recorded a 97 per cent
repayment rate for women in Africa.
82. Credit is essential for women to obtain vital agricultural inputs such
as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, as well as to buy tools, procure animal
draught power, hire extra labour, construct irrigation systems and take soil
and water conservation measures. Credit availability is not a sufficient
condition for the guarantee of sustainable improvement in women's conditions.
83. Provision of credit must be accompanied by appropriate technological
advice and training, as well as applied research, in particular in sectors in
which women are involved, including traditional food crops such as cassava,
cowpeas, sorghum, millet, plantain and sweet potatoes, which provide up to two
thirds of family nutrition, small livestock and poultry and home vegetable
84. Efforts to provide credit to rural women must begin with an examination
of local conditions to determine the most effective mechanisms of reaching the
poorest women. Provision should be made for training components, as well as
strategies that replace the collateral requirements of financial institutions.
Moreover, cognizance must be taken of the diversity of rural women's
production activities which have seasonal components and include capital
requirements for small investments as well as working capital to support
market-oriented production and trading activities. Also, the mix of
infrastructure, extension, training and marketing support must be carefully
targeted to meet rural women's needs in subsistence and market-oriented
activities. Assistance must be provided to rural women to ensure the
channelling of resources to systems and subsystems for which they are
responsible in order to avoid the diversion of resources to production
dominated by male members of the household.
85. Staff of financial institutions should be trained to understand both the
productive and the reproductive roles of women and identify modes for matching
these needs with credit availability. The special needs of women farmers must
be carefully identified. This includes, for example, the need to hire help
during periods of labour shortage, food processing, forestry products
transformation, purchase of inputs for reforestation programmes, or the
organization of fish marketing infrastructure.
86. Policies of financial institutions can be enhanced to increase rural
women's access to financial services and technical assistance through such
schemes as promoting the design of plans of action for increasing women's
access to financial services; encouraging documentation and exchange of
experience among financial institutions on innovative credit schemes that
provide easier access to rural women; development of options for financial
services, technical assistance, training and resources with special attention
to rural women's needs; and establishment of closer links with women bankers
in those financial institutions that receive loans from international
organizations. Creating and strengthening linkages between banks,
government-sponsored seasonal credit programmes and village-based savings and
credit groups are important means of increasing the availability of credit to
poor rural women.
87. The impact of credit availability can be dramatic, both on family well-
being and on the community at large. Apart from the economic advantage of
increased productivity and higher income, the increase in women's earning
power has a tremendous effect on their self-confidence. Increased self-esteem
has often led women to enrol in education programmes and insist on having a
greater role in community activities - initiatives that previously they would
never have considered.
(f) Appropriate extension services and training
88. The needs of women farmers have generally been overlooked in the
provision of extension services. Although women represent up to 80 per cent
of the food producers in some countries, they receive only 2 to 13 per cent of
extension services. Only 5 per cent of extension organizations' time and
resources are allocated to women world wide and only 13 per cent of extension
workers world wide are women.
89. The effective delivery of extension services to women farmers entails
ensuring the availability of complete and correct information on women
producers in the region, seeking ways to overcome restrictions on the
interaction and interrelationships between rural men and women, making
extension services useful to women as well as to men, identifying ways to
provide extension advice to female producers through working with women only,
as well as with mixed groups, taking extension activities to women's work
sites and adapting approaches to fragmented patterns of women's time
90. Extension services are often not effective in reaching women because
information is geared to male producers' needs in cash cropping and is often
not applicable to subsistence crops and livestock, which may be women's
concerns. Modes of communication and organization of extension information
may be inappropriate for rural women of varying and usually low levels of
educational attainment and literacy, and scheduling of activities may fail to
take account of women's fragmented time allocation schedules.
91. Extension service objectives may not be realized and communities harmed
when training and inputs are given to male farmers to increase cash-crop
production without corresponding attention to women farmers to grow food
crops. Such oversights can contribute to a decrease in food production and,
by extension, increased malnutrition within communities.
92. The link between extension services and research should be improved to
ensure that gender-sensitive research findings are incorporated into extension
programmes and that rural women's production-related needs are being
addressed. The provision of appropriate technology that is both labour- and
energy-saving should be based on research and communication with targeted
populations. Such technology should cover the range of activities in which
women farmers, producers and processors are engaged to alleviate the
constraints they face and to meet their production objectives.
93. Research and data-collection requirements include addressing gender
concerns in baseline surveys and questionnaires and conducting gender-
disaggregated needs assessments prior to the commencement of activities. The
collection of gender-disaggregated data on agricultural activities and
constraints are required for use in the design, implementation and monitoring
of extension activities as are intra-household analyses and time-use studies.
94. Extension systems should identify gender specificities in their work,
pay attention to women producers and processors' extension needs and
constraints, modify extension messages for their delivery, make their
monitoring and evaluation system more participatory, evaluate results and
problems according to gender and feed the information back to men and women.
Areas of intervention should be prioritized according to the needs of women
and men farmers.
95. Strategies should be identified for the number of women extension
agents. Constraints to increasing women's enrolment in lower, middle and
higher agricultural educational institutions should be examined and strategies
formulated for overcoming the constraints. Gender-sensitive training should
be provided for male agents to enhance the understanding of the needs of women
farmers. Efforts to increase the pool of women extension agents should
include retraining agents in other fields in skills required to service women
farmers, equalizing the status of female and male agents through equal
training and employment conditions and increasing the involvement of local
women as para-extension staff.
4. Participation of women in economic decision-making
(a) Incidence and trends
96. The increase in women's role in the economy, the growing recognition of
their contribution to development and the changes that have already occurred
in women's access to education in many regions of the world, as well as the
progress made in diversifying their fields of study, has not been reflected in
their participation in economic decision-making.
97. The rate of participation of women managers world wide at all levels is
far below their rate of participation in the labour market. There is a clear
concentration in some sectors and activities; the presence of women at the
senior levels is low and at the junior and middle levels of management, it is
medium to high. In general, the higher the level of decision-making, the
lower the level of women's participation. Even female-dominated sectors are
often managed by men. However, there is some indication that changes are
occurring. The number of women managers is expanding as a result of improved
access to education and the longer presence of women in the labour market.
This, in turn, is linked to a higher age at marriage and to low fertility.
Women managers are concentrated at the junior and middle levels of management
and are trying to expand their career path. Some countries estimate that even
with the influence of the above-mentioned factors (education and then longer
presence in the labour market), the rate of increase is slow in comparison
with other achievements in the fields of education and employment. Reports
from the European region suggest that the level of women managers is higher in
private enterprises than in the public sector.
98. Almost every country reported an increase in the number of women
entrepreneurs. Although in many developing and developed countries, the
number of enterprises owned by women is growing faster than that owned by men,
they tend to be concentrated in activities with lower rates of return, and
face difficulties in expanding their activities. For example, in China, women
represent one third of the 14 million persons self-employed. However, their
income lags behind that of men because of the size of the enterprise and the
type of business, which typically includes low-paying industries and trades.
However, as women are beginning to enter into higher technical and
professional industries, the income gap is narrowing.
(b) Main obstacles identified for women managers
(i) Access to third-level education and training
99. One of the major obstacles to the increase in the proportion of women
managers in Asia and Africa is the unequal access of girls and women to
education, particularly to third-level education. In other regions, the
inequality in access to third-level education has almost been eliminated.
However, there are problems concerning the quality of education in certain
subjects. Moreover, technical and vocational training is still male-dominated
in all countries reporting. Lack of counselling and career guidance for girls
and boys has also been cited as a contributing factor in maintaining
traditional fields of studies for women and men.
(ii) Women's career choices
100. Educational background has a certain impact on the choice of career.
Most countries report that women are still inclined to choose careers in
traditionally female occupations. Careers in the humanities, the arts,
teaching, the social services and tourism are among women's "preferred"
careers, while in most countries, men receive 90 per cent of the diplomas in
the technical areas. A typical pattern reflected in some reports is one of
women gaining entry into administrative jobs, usually having a humanities-
oriented rather than a technical background, and this leads to a lack of
confidence in women's effectiveness, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
(iii) Administrative rules and recruitment procedures
101. Examples of discrimination based on gender roles implied in
administrative rules and procedures were presented by Governments when
referring to recruitment techniques and selection interviews when women apply
for non-traditional jobs. Some systems such as the career-tracking system,
lead to different personnel management for men and women, when different task
distribution is given to men and women with the same qualifications. Others
referred to governmental training programmes that train women in traditional
occupations. Some countries reported that the gender of the candidate was a
factor in recruitment.
(iv) Factors for promotion
102. In most countries women are concentrated in jobs with horizontal
mobility. Women are perceived as less interested in upgrading their
qualifications and careers and are less able to take advantage of company
training. Some reports refer to the fact that men form the majority of those
selecting managers and usually discriminate against women. Scoring methods
used for promotion could provide a major barrier for women. Concern was
expressed that as assessment techniques become more sophisticated and complex,
it will be increasingly difficult to challenge potential sources of
(v) Corporate culture
103. Attitudinal discrimination is part of the corporate culture and this is
still strongly biased against women; for example, it was reported that men as
spouses do not provide the emotional back-up that a professional woman needs;
that different assessments are given to women and men candidates; that few
women or men wish to work for a woman; that there is a lack of solidarity
among women; and that there is direct discrimination by men in denying women
promotion to top posts. However, there is no specific reference to sexual
(vi) Work and family responsibilities
104. Countries were unanimous in their position that the burden of family
responsibilities fell on women and that there was an absence or insufficient
sharing of family responsibilities by men and by society as well, while at the
same time, women were expected to fulfil their productive and reproductive
roles. The lack or inadequacy of day-care centres was the most-cited
(c) Main obstacles identified for women entrepreneurs
(i) Lack of equal access to economic resources, such as land (urban
105. In most countries, there is no legal impediment to women's equal access
to land. However, in many countries, in particular those with more than one
legal system, most land titles are in the name of the man, even if the
property is jointly owned, and inheritance practices are often male-biased,
contrary to the constitution or other provisions. An unequal distribution of
land between men and women farmers is observed world wide. It is generally
reported that men own more land or have greater assets than women.
(ii) Lack of equal access to credit
106. In most countries, because women do not have collateral or knowledge
about the formal financial system, they face certain constraints relating to
access to credit, and have to rely on informal sources of financing with high
rates of interest. A number of reports also suggest that the main problem for
women owners of small and medium-sized enterprises is financial management
because of their inexperience in that area. Lack of credibility by formal
financial institutions is also cited as a discriminating factor against women.
(iii) Non-existence or inadequate training in management and technical
107. There are few opportunities for women to be trained in management and
technical skills. The training they receive is often stereotyped by gender,
as women, themselves, tend to choose training in traditional occupational
(iv) Non-existence of networking and role models
108. Most women entrepreneurs lack female role models and networking of women
in the male-dominated business environment. A number of reports note that the
lack of a woman's "track record", was interpreted, according to certain
stereotypical criteria, as inexperience in business, particularly in the
manufacturing sector. The lack of networking with other spheres of women's
activities, for example in the political area was noted.
(v) Insufficient or inadequate access to support services, including
109. Inadequate career counselling and guidance for young women, the lack of
public services and the male-dominated environment of support services are
reported to impact negatively on women entrepreneurs.
(vi) Insufficient and inadequate availability of data and information
relating to women entrepreneurs
110. Information on women entrepreneurs and their achievements is almost
non-existent. Surveys do not usually contain sex-disaggregated data on women
and men entrepreneurs. Recent research activities undertaken by specialized
agencies, women's and professional organizations and policy makers have begun
to focus on women entrepreneurs because of their increased participation in
business start-ups. However, lack of data is the main restriction.
111. The working environment is seen as a male preserve, full of
discriminatory procedures, with inadequate resources for handling both family
responsibilities and productive activities.
(d) Measures adopted to increase the number of women managers
112. Various policies and programmes that have been adopted in a number of
countries have proved to be successful in increasing the number and proportion
of women managers.
(i) Affirmative action
113. Some Governments have put into force an Equal Employment Opportunity Act
for Women, requiring the public sector, and sometimes the private sector as
well, to establish affirmative action programmes for women managers and to
prepare annual reports thereon. In some cases, broad guidelines have been
issued referring to equal partnership between men and women. In others,
affirmative action has defined a percentage or quota to be reached, and merit
quotas as well as regional quotas have been introduced for women candidates.
Some countries have required that a certain percentage of the members of the
competitive examination commission be women. One country set up a special
executive service to implement public sector policies.
114. In one country, the largest national confederation of labour unions has
formulated an action programme aimed at promoting women in trade-union
decision-making bodies by the year 2000 and set a target for women in the
central executive committee.
(ii) Changing rules and procedures
115. In order to introduce changes, severe penalties are being applied
against private enterprises that do not comply with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Act with respect to recruitment, training, promotion and in-house
day-care centres. Other countries have issued special management guidelines
concerning recruitment, placement and training of women civil servants. Still
other countries review public sector appointment procedures on a regular
basis. In other countries, private companies have to report annually to
established bodies on the comparative status of women and men in relation to
recruitment, promotion, qualification, training, working conditions and pay.
Exemption from taxes for employers or contributions for training grants when
employers employ women in traditionally male-dominated professions were among
the measures taken in other countries.
116. In some countries, the protection of women has been relaxed (for
example, regarding ILO Convention No. 89 which prohibits women's night work)
in order to allow women's access to managerial positions. Parental leave is
allowed in some countries; in other countries, mainly in Asia and the
developed countries, the network of day-care centres has been expanded
dramatically. Flexible personnel policies have been introduced in some
countries, including guidance on parental leave, conferences on dependant care
and the issue of work and family responsibilities. In some developed
countries, equal opportunity commissions comprising representatives of trade
unions, women's associations and employers have been installed. In one
country, it was established by law that trade unions include women in the
bargaining between trade unions and employers.
(iii) Information and networking
117. One country reported that there were regular meetings between presidents
and employers of large enterprises and government officials concerning women's
advancement to managerial levels across the nation.
118. In some countries, actions have focused on the elementary and secondary
schools, where the study of home economics courses has been established for
girls and boys. In other countries, technical studies have been extended to
girls. In one country, an engineering college was opened for girls only.
(e) Measures adopted to assist women entrepreneurs
119. Several public and non-governmental organizations manage specific
programmes for the development of women's entrepreneurship.
120. Many reports mentioned the creation of a loan programme for women which
would guarantee loans up to a certain amount as a successful way to increase
the number of loans. Some actions have included women's non-governmental and
employers' organizations managing their own financial funds for their
affiliates. The opening of windows specifically for women in formal banks was
reported. Special funds allocated to women entrepreneurs have also been
121. In some countries, a national women's council has been created in order
to review issues and make recommendations to legislative bodies. It has also
been reported that Governments consult with non-governmental organizations
concerning national policies regarding women entrepreneurs.
122. In some countries, women entrepreneurs have established linkages with
the legislative body, which facilitates bringing their interests before that
123. Many countries reported actions taken by governmental institutions and
women's networks relating to counselling and training of women owners and
potential owners, as well as the creation of long-term training centres.
Training was offered in such areas as management, finance, technical and
business skills, and international marking, as well as in self-confidence.
124. In some cases, a one-year voluntary mentoring programme has been
established and mentors have been recruited by governmental agencies dealing
with women entrepreneurs.
125. In one country, women entrepreneurs have been secured a certain number
of government contracts (procurement contracts).
126. Efforts have been made to collect and disseminate information on women
businesses. In some cases, economic censuses include specific surveys on
127. Research by the national machinery on women, universities and
non-governmental organizations is beginning to be effected.
128. Small cottage industry projects directed to women were implemented in
the rural areas of many developing countries, with very high rates of success.
In some cases, the ministry of women's affairs was the body managing the
women's entrepreneurship development programme.
129. In most developing countries, supportive actions are provided by global
and women's non-governmental organizations as well as by specific
130. In a number of developing countries, international organizations are
involved in the promotion of women entrepreneurs, with programmes and pilot
projects for the self-employed, including training in management and credit.
1/ Economic and Social Council resolution 1990/15, annex.
2/ International Labour Organization, "The changing role of women in
the economy: employment and social issues" (Geneva, November 1994)
(GB.261/EST/2/2), p. 3.
3/ Asian Development Bank, Women in Development, Indonesia country
briefing paper (Manila, ADB Programs Department East, 1991).
4/ International Labour Organization, "The changing role of women in
the economy ...", p. 6.
5/ Ibid., p. 5.
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