A new, landmark report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Gallup, “Towards a Better Future for Women and Work: Voices of Women and Men,” examines the attitudes and perceptions of women and men regarding women and work.
The results come from the Gallup World Poll, which was conducted in 142 countries and territories and surveyed almost 149,000 adults. It is representative of more than 99 percent of the global adult population.
Some 70 percent of women and 66 percent of men would prefer that women work at paid jobs. Women worldwide would prefer to be either working at paid jobs (29 percent) or be in situations in which they could both work and take care of their families (41 percent), indicating a desire for a good work/life balance. Only 27 percent of the women polled did not want a paid job.
“This survey clearly shows that most women and men around the globe prefer that women have paid jobs,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “Family-supportive policies, which enable women to remain and progress in paid employment and encourage men to take their fair share of care work, are crucial to achieving gender equality at work.”
Surprisingly, the percentage of women who want paid jobs includes a majority of women who are not in the workforce, including women in all regions worldwide such as regions where women’s participation in the workforce traditionally is low, such as the Arab states and territories.
Men’s views are very similar to women’s in many instances, the report showed, with 28 percent of men saying they would like female family members to have paid jobs, and another 38 percent saying they would prefer that women could both work and take care of the family. Less than one-third of men – 29 percent – would prefer that women not work at paid jobs.
At the global level, women who are working full time for an employer (more than 30 hours a week by Gallup’s definition) are more likely to prefer situations where they can balance work and family/home obligations. Women and men with higher levels of education also are more likely to prefer that women both work at paid jobs and provide care.
Reconciling work with care for their families, however, poses a significant challenge for working women globally. In fact, both men and women in the vast majority of countries and territories surveyed mention, “balance between work and family” as one of the top problems facing women in paid jobs.
Other issues such as unfair treatment, abuse, harassment in the workplace, lack of good-paying jobs and unequal pay also emerge among the top problems in various regions of the world.
In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, about as many cite reasons that fall into the response category of “unfair treatment/discrimination” in the workplace (19 percent) as mention work-family balance (18 percent). In Northern, Southern and Western Europe, more mention work-family balance, but equal pay also is viewed as an important challenge. In Northern America, people are most likely to cite unequal pay (30 percent), followed by work-family balance (16 percent) and unfair treatment/discrimination (15 percent). In Northern Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and the Arab States, “family members do not approve of women working” is among the top five most frequently mentioned obstacles that working women face.
“The world needs to advance gender equality and empower women at work. Not just for the benefit of women, but for the benefit of all humankind,” said Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup.
Worldwide, the majority of women who are employed say what they earn is a significant source (30 percent) or main source (26 percent) of their household’s income. Men still are more likely than women to report being the main providers: 48 percent of employed men say what they earn is the main source of their household’s income. However, among employed women and men with higher levels of education, the gap regarding their contribution to their household’s income is smaller.
Globally, women and men share similar views on women’s employment opportunities. The report found that, if a woman has similar education and experience to a man, women and men worldwide are most likely to say that she has the same opportunity to find a good job in the city or area where they live. Northern America leads other regions in terms of perceived equal opportunity. The majority polled in the region (55 percent) say a woman with similar qualifications as a man has the same opportunity to find a good job. Men (60 percent) are more likely than women (50 percent) to feel this way.