REFORM OF VOCATIONAL TRAINING NEEDED
   TO IMPROVE WOMEN'S EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS
   
   Both increased investment and reform in education and training
programmes for women and girls are needed to close the gender gap in the
employment sector, according to a group of experts who met from 2 to 6
December at the International Training Centre of the International Labour
Organization (ILO) in Turin, Italy.  The meeting was organized by the United
Nations Division for the Advancement of Women in close cooperation with the
International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Industrial Development Organization
(UNIDO), and the International Training Centre of the ILO. 

   In follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in
Beijing in September 1995, the experts in the fields of human resource
development, vocational training and life-long learning examined the present
labour force participation of women, their transition from school to the
labour market and opportunities for continued education.  They stressed that
education was not a one-time event in life, but an on-going process that
should enable women to play an active role in the labour market.  They agreed
that high-quality general education for girls, and remedial education and
training for adult women, who form the majority of the world's illiterate
population, were necessary to meet today's employment challenges.  

   The experts also stressed the need to design training systems that
respond to the complexities of the current labour market, taking into account
the increased employment of women in export processing zones, and the informal
sector.  In addition, women should have equal access to training programmes
that offer a high personal pay-off and increase social and economic power.    

   While diversified types of training, including in non-traditional
fields, were viewed as necessary, the experts also supported the establishment
of paths for promotion and better wages in sectors of predominantly female
employment.  They underlined the importance of guidance, counselling and
support services so that women could benefit from training opportunities.  And
they suggested that vocational training programmes be offered in close
partnership between different sectors of society, including government,
private business, employers' and workers' organizations, and non-governmental
organizations.   With regard to content, the experts stressed that any
training package for women should include training in legal literacy,
empowerment, and preparation for leadership and decision-making.

      Education and training will figure prominently on the agenda of the
upcoming session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in
March 1997.  The conclusions of the expert-group meeting will be made
available to Commission members as they discuss the issue.  The Commission is
responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Platform for Action
adopted at the Beijing Women's Conference, and formulating policy for the
advancement of women.

      For further information, please contact Maria Hartl, in the UN Division
for the Advancement of Women, at (212) 963-3140, or Ann Marie Erb-Leoncavallo
in the UN Department of Public Information, (212) 963-0499. 

      
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Date last updated: 06 December 1999 by DESA/DAW
Copyright 1999 United Nations