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World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends for women 2017

International Labour Organization




Workplace Gender Equality

Gender equality Gender gap Workplace Gender Equality Gender parity Women in work

World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends for women 2017

World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends for women 2017

The World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends for Women 2017 report from the International Labour Organization examines the global and regional labour market trends and gaps, including in labour force participation rates, unemployment rates, employment status as well as sectoral and occupational segregation.

This report also presents a global in-depth analysis of the key drivers of female labour force participation by investigating the personal preferences of women and the societal gender norms and socio-economic constraints that women face.


  • Gender gaps are one of the most pressing labour market challenges facing the global community. In fact, women are substantially less likely than men to participate in the labour market, i.e. to either be in employment or looking for a job: the current global labour force participation rate for women at just over 49 per cent is nearly 27 percentage points lower than the rate for men (with no improvements anticipated in 2018).
  • Worryingly, underlying this gap is a downward trend in participation rates for both men and women: between 1997 and 2017, the participation rates for both sexes have fallen by roughly 3 percentage points. In some countries, where the gap has narrowed it has been as a result of male rates falling more sharply than those of their female counterparts.
  • In 2017, the largest gender gap in participation rates, at nearly 31 percentage points, is faced by women in emerging countries, followed by those in developed countries, at just over 16 percentage points, and in developing countries, with a gap of 12 percentage points.
  • When women do participate in the labour market, they are less likely than their male counterparts to find a job. Globally, the unemployment rate for women stands at 6.2 per cent in 2017, representing a gap of 0.7 percentage points from the male unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent.
  • Women are also more likely to undertake a greater number of hours of unpaid work due to time spent on household chores and care provision. Overall, they are more likely to work longer hours than men when both paid and unpaid work are taken into account. Moreover, when in paid employment, on average, women work fewer hours for pay or profit either because they opt to work part time or because part-time work is the only option available to them.
  • While there are clear economic benefits to be gained by engaging more women in the labour force, there are also other significant positive impacts, such as the improvement in the welfare of women and the opportunity that it would afford them to realise their goals. Indeed, irrespective of their employment status, 70 per cent of women prefer to work at paid jobs. Considering that more than half of all women globally are out of the labour force, this suggests that there are significant challenges restricting their capacity and freedom to participate.


  • Acknowledgements
  • Executive summary
  • Gender gaps in the labour market: Trends and impacts of improving outcomes for women
    • Introduction
    • Labour force participation
    • Unemployment
    • Gender gaps in sectoral and occupational opportunities
    • Status in employment
    • Gaps in income
    • Economic benefits of reducing gender gaps
  • Assessing the factors driving gender gaps in the labour market
    • Introduction
    • Understanding the gender gaps: Descriptive evidence and analytical framework
    • Preferences, gender role conformity and socio-economic constraints: An empirical assessment
    • Decomposing gender gaps in the workplace
    • Concluding remarks
  • Policy considerations
    • Reshaping gender role conformity and personal preferences
    • Addressing socio-economic constraints
    • Raising equality in labour market conditions
    • Moving forward
  • Appendices
  • References
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