The roots of gender and poverty studies began with Pearce (1978) who coined the expression ‘feminization of poverty’. Pearce considered female-headed families, excluding poor women who live in male- headed families, based on the argument that the proportion of families headed by women among the poor has been increasing since the 1950s. In her opinion, women have become poorer because of their gender.
The recent dynamics of the global labour market has reinforced the precariousness of women’s employment and working conditions. Among other issues, the recent global highlights about the participation of women in the labour markets are listed below:
Unemployment: Women are more likely to be unemployed than men, with global unemployment rates of 5.5 per cent for men and 6.2 per cent for women
Informal Work: In 2015, a total of 586 million women were own-account or contributing family workers. Many working women remain in occupations that are more likely to consist of informal work arrangements
Wage and salaried jobs: Moreover, 52.1 per cent of women and 51.2 per cent of men in the labour market are wage and salaried workers.
Jobs and occupations by economic sectors: Globally, the services sector has overtaken agriculture as the sector that employs the highest number of women and men. In the period between 1995 and 2015, women are employed in the services sector: since 1995, women’s employment in services has increased from 41.1 per cent to 61.5 per cent.
High-skilled occupations: High-skilled occupations expanded faster for women than for men in emerging economies where there is a gender gap in high-skilled employment in women’s favour.
Part-time jobs: Globally, women represent less than 40 per cent of total employment, but make up 57 per cent of those working on a part-time basis.
Hours of work: Across the global labour scenario, one fourth of women in employment (25.7 per cent) work more than 48 hours a week, mainly in Eastern , Western and Central Asia, where almost half of women employed work more than 48 hours a week.
Gender wage gap: Globally, women earn 77 per cent of what men earn.
Indeed, although women have been increasing their participation rate in the labor market in the last decades, they worked in more precarious occupations. This situation characterized by precarious jobs, mainly based on short-term contracts, enhances the vulnerability of workers, mainly women, as the financialization of management strategies turns out to be subordinated to economic efficiency targets, that shape employment relations, overwhelmed by longer working hours, job destruction, turnover and outsourcing. Workforce displacement and loss of rights could also be part of the spectrum of management alternatives aimed at cost reduction. In addition to the wage gap, women’s participation is stronger in the services sector where working hours are longer and wages lower.
Besides, unpaid work could also be considered an extra onus on women. In addition to women´s challenges in the labour market, the increasing weight of unpaid work is more likely when women become unemployed and return to their homes and take more responsibility for housework than men, or because the loss of family income makes it impossible to support the remuneration of domestic workers. Gender-differentiated time use patterns are affected by many factors, including: household composition (age and gender composition of household members); seasonal considerations; regional and geographic factors; availability of infrastructure and social services. But social and cultural norms also play an important role both in defining, and sustaining rigidity in, the gender division of labour.
Building on the United Nations goals, gender equality is required for the erradication of the many dimensions of poverty and to promote sustainable human development. Taking into account a macroeconomic approach to the labour markets, the “vicious circle” of impoverishment could be surmounted if policy makers rethink employment an income policies under a gender approach to the labour markets.
Pearce, Diana (1978). “The feminization of poverty: women, work, and welfare”. Urban and Social Change Review, Special Issue: Women and Work, Vol. 11, No. 1-2, pp. 28–36.