New Delhi: Deepening recession is expected to increase the number of unemployed women by up to 22 million as global job crisis could “worsen sharply” this year, the International Labour Organisation has warned.
Noting that the economic downturn has hit women harder as they were “more vulnerable” than men, the report said the trend can be arrested through gender equality policies.
The ILO said the global economic crisis would place new hurdles in the way to sustainable and socially equitable growth making decent work for women more difficult and advocated “creative solutions” to address the gender gap.
In India and Africa, where women were mostly engaged in non-economic household work and agriculture was the biggest source of employment, there remained a chance of considerably higher incidence of poverty, the report said.
Suggesting that “backwardness” of South Asia and Africa could in fact offer protection to large number of women engaged in agriculture, an ILO expert here said “those in construction and other export oriented production activities will be severely impacted, resulting in an increase in overall poverty.”
According to employment data available with ILO, more than 65% of South Asia’s women workforce were employed in agriculture in comparison to 40% men. In developed economies of the Americas and EU, about 83% of the women work force were engaged in the services sector.
The study suggested “gender equality” in any policy response would better the position of working women and impact the overall stability of society. It recommended that when governments design and implement fiscal stimulus packages, it should recognise the labour market disadvantage that women face and consider explicit employment growth targets for them.
Broader social protection measures like unemployment benefits and insurance schemes and social dialogue with the active inclusion of women in decision-making processes were also recommended.
Ahead of the International Women’s Day on 8 March, the ILO said the labour market projections for 2009 showed deterioration in global labour markets for both women and men.
The UN labour body projected that global unemployment rate could reach between 6.3% and 7.1%, with a corresponding female unemployment rate ranging from 6.5 to 7.4% compared to 6.1% to 7%for men.
“This would result in an increase of between 24 million and 52 million people unemployed worldwide, of which from 10 million to 22 million would be women,” the ILO said in its annual Global Employment Trends for Women report.
The report said the gender impact of economic crisis in terms of unemployment rates is expected to be more detrimental for females than males in most parts of the world.