Friday, 8 November 2013

Our grandmothers and mothers did not fight for gender equality in vain

This blog by Carlotta Balestra, Policy Analyst in the Statistics Directorate of the OECD, is part of the Wikiprogress focus on the "Gender differences in well-being" chapter of the How's Life? 2013.

Women are now better off and more educated than in the past, have greater career prospects and can decide their own lives. But changes in the status of women are neither uniform nor universal, and full gender equality remains an unattained goal. In many emerging and developing economies women remain second-class citizens, lacking basic rights, and having more limited access to assets. In the rich world, while legal and political rights are granted, large gender gaps persist and in many areas women still walk a step behind men.  

Women have caught up with men in terms of education. In fact, in most of the OECD countries, girls now overtake boys in educational achievement, but they are still far less likely to choose computing and engineering as fields of study - subjects in great demand on the labour market in OECD countries and other regions.

Unsurprisingly, one of the most prominent gaps between men and women is still in the world of work. In rich countries, women made huge gains into the labour force, since 1970 the proportion of working-age women in paid work has risen from 48% to 59%. However, they still find it much harder to secure the most senior posts and, despite equal pay legislation, are paid less than men. That is partly because women are segregated into low-value jobs and often find themselves as part-timers or temporary workers. Across the OECD area, on average, full-time women’s salary is 16% lower than men’s. The gender wage gap is smaller than it was 40 years ago, but what is troubling is that it seems to have stalled over the past few years.

Many working women continue to have two jobs - one in the workplace and one at home. As the chart below illustrates, women still bear the brunt of household tasks, an imbalance that can hinder them from participating fully in the job market and building their careers. Although, the contribution of men to housework and child care has grown over the last 10 years, it still remains far below women’s. Across the OECD, women spend twice as much time as men on household chores and parenting. There are large variations from country to country: in a week the average Italian woman spends 22 hours (or almost 3 full-time workdays) more than her other half on unpaid work, while this gap averages 5 hours in Nordic countries. If both paid and unpaid work are combined the gender gap narrows, but it’s still the women who put in the longest hours.

Female minus male weekly hours worked

Women have won the right to vote and run for public office almost everywhere, but they still remain under-represented in national politics. In parliaments across the OECD area women hold on average 28% of the seats, though the Nordics do much better. In Finland – the first country to introduce universal suffrage – women make up 43% of the members of parliament. Female political leaders are nowadays less unusual – think of Brazil’s Dimla Rousseff, Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla Miranda, Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Germany’s Angela Merkel and South Korea’s Park Geun-hye – but still far from common, and one in three men across the OECD still thinks that men make better political leaders than women do.

In every country and culture, women face a high risk of being victims of physical or sexual violence by intimate partners. On average, across OECD countries, one in four women reports having been victim of intimate partner violence at least once in her life. This proportion goes up to 40% in Turkey and Mexico.

But life is not all rosy for men either. Men live shorter than women, are the primary targets of contact crime in the streets, have been hit harder by the recent economic downturn and report being less satisfied with their lives as a whole than women do. They are also confronted with new roles and social norms. The increasing share of women earning more than their partners over the past few years has called into question men’s traditional breadwinner role. While men are now supportive of their spouses when they help bring home some of the bacon, husbands aren’t always as enthusiastic when their wives start bringing home the ‘filet mignon’.
How’s Life? 2013 is now available. Read free on-line @ directly on OECD iLibrary:

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