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Towards a better future for women and work: Voices of women and men

International Labour Organization




Workplace Gender Equality

Gender equality Workplace Gender Equality Gender parity Women in the workplace Gender diverstiy

Towards a better future for women and work: Voices of women and men

Towards a better future for women and work: Voices of women and men

The Towards a Better Future for Women and Work: Voices of Women and Men report provides a first-ever account of global attitudes and perceptions of women and men regarding women and work, based on the 2016 Gallup World Poll. The poll, which was conducted in 142 countries and territories, is representative of 98 per cent of the global population.

The results, based on interviews with nearly 149,000 adults in 142 countries and territories, suggest that women might find support from men in their quest for productive employment and decent work. While gender equality is still far from being achieved and the findings show real divides still exist in many regions of the world, it also appears men and women are not always as far apart in their attitudes as conventional wisdom suggests.


  • A total of 70 per cent of women and a similar 66 per cent of men would prefer that women work at paid jobs. Each of these figures is more than double the percentages of those who would prefer women to stay at home.
  • This total notably includes a majority of women who are not currently in the workforce. But more importantly, this is true in almost all regions worldwide, including several regions where women’s labour force participation is traditionally low, such as the Arab States.
  • Most men and women think it is acceptable for the women in their families to have paid jobs outside their home if they want one.
  • Majorities of women and men in every region of the world agree that work outside the home is acceptable for women in their families, although women are generally slightly more likely to feel this way than men are.
  • Families play a significant role in shaping these attitudes: Among women in households in which it is not acceptable for women to work outside the home, 61 per cent say that they prefer to stay at home. Slightly more than one-third (36 per cent) would like to work at paid jobs.
  • People in the vast majority of countries mention “balance between work and family” as one of the top challenges facing women who work at paid jobs in their countries. With a few exceptions, women and men in most regions of the world identify the same top challenges for working women in their countries.
  • At the same time, women face different challenges in various parts of the world. Balancing work and family is the No. 1 challenge in developed and emerging economies, while unfair treatment at work is the most frequently mentioned concern in developing economies. Lack of affordable care for children and relatives is a bigger challenge in emerging and developing economies than it is in developed ones. And unequal pay tops the list only in developed economies.
  • In every region, however, the gender gap shrinks with education. The gap among employed women and men who say they make a small contribution to their household’s income is also smaller among those with higher levels of education.


  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • Summary of key findings
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Women in the world of work: Measuring women’s and men’s preferences
    • Women and men are mostly aligned on women and paid jobs
    • Young women are most likely to prefer paid work
    • Single women are least likely to want to stay at home
    • More educated women and men are more likely to prefer women to combine work with care responsibilities
    • Urban women are least likely to favour staying at home
    • Women in the workforce would prefer to reconcile work and family life
    • Most women who are out of the workforce would like to be working
    • Youngest women out of workforce are most likely to want to work and reconcile home life
    • Employment is linked to women’s and men’s life evaluations
    • Unemployment affects life evaluations of men more than women in the Arab States
    • Case study: Women’s strong desire for paid work in Eastern Europe, Central and Western Asia, and Northern Africa
  • Chapter 2: Views about the acceptability of work for women
    • Women are more likely than men to find work outside the home “acceptable”
    • Families with children are less accepting of work outside the home for women
  • Chapter 3: The biggest challenges for women in paid jobs: In women’s and men’s words
    • Work/Family balance is one of the toughest challenges for working women worldwide
    • Work and family reconciliation is not the only challenge
    • Challenges shift with level of development
    • Challenges for women change based on their circumstances
    • Feeling safe is an issue for women worldwide
  • Chapter 4: The equal-opportunity search for good jobs
    • More educated women are less likely to see better opportunities
    • Younger women are more positive about opportunities
    • Technological tools can promote access to job markets
    • Chapter 5: Working women’s financial contributions to their household income
    • Working women provide at least a significant source of their household’s income
    • Gender gap is smaller among women and men employed full time for an employer
    • Gender gap also shrinks with education
  • Appendix I. Additional information
    • Developing the questions
    • Gallup World Poll methodology
    • Weighting
    • Gallup life evaluation metrics
    • Gallup employment metrics
  • Appendix II. Regional groupings of surveyed countries and territories
  • Regional tables and country/territory dashboards
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