Where do we stand?

Percentage of women in non-agricultural employment in Latin America and the Caribbean

Bar Chart

Quick Facts

  • In 2008, there were 96 girls for every 100 boys enrolled in primary school, and 95 girls for every 100 boys in secondary school in developing regions.
  • The share of women employed outside of agriculture remains as low as 20 per cent in Southern Asia, Western Asia and Northern Africa.
  • The global share of women in parliament continues to rise slowly and reached 19 per cent in 2010 — far short of gender parity.
A woman joins her two male co-workers at a brick field in West Bengal, India.
Equal Work. Photo: Joydeep Mukherjee

High disparities in education

Gender gaps in access to education have narrowed, but disparities remain high in university-level education and in some developing regions. Girls’ enrolment ratios in primary and secondary schools have significantly increased in recent years. Nevertheless, the 2005 target was missed and major challenges remain, with large inequality gaps in primary education in Oceania, sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia.

Unequal access to universities

Access to university-level education remains highly unequal, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. In these regions, only 67 and 76 girls per 100 boys, respectively, are enrolled in tertiary education. Completion rates also tend to be lower among women than men. Poverty is the main cause of unequal access to education, particularly for girls of secondary-school age.

Low rates of women in paid employment

Despite progress made, men continue to outnumber women in paid employment, and women are often relegated to vulnerable forms of employment. The share of women in paid non-agricultural wage employment is slowly increasing and globally reached 41 per cent in 2008. It is still as low as 20 percent in Southern Asia, Northern Africa and Western Asia, and 32 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa. Even when women are employed, they are typically paid less and have less financial and social security than men. Women are more likely than men to be in vulnerable jobs — characterized by inadequate earnings, low productivity and substandard working conditions — especially in Western Asia and Northern Africa, where paid employment opportunities for women are the lowest. Globally, only one quarter of senior officials or managers are women. In Western Asia, Southern Asia and Northern Africa, women hold less than 10 per cent of top-level positions.

Women are gaining political power

Women are slowly gaining political power, mainly thanks to quotas and special measures. Between 1995 and 2010, the share of women in parliament, on a global level, increased from 11 per cent to 19 per cent — a gain of 73 per cent, but far short of gender parity. Parliamentary elections in 2009 contributed to rising gains for women in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, where 29 per cent and 25 per cent of the renewed seats went to women, respectively. But 58 countries still have 10 per cent or fewer female members of parliament. Progress in women’s representation in the executive branches of government is even slower. In 2010, just nine of 151 elected heads of state and 11 of 192 heads of government were women. Globally, women hold only 16 per cent of ministerial posts.

Affirmative action continues to be the key driver of progress for women. In 2009, the average share of women elected to parliament was 13 percentage points higher — 27 per cent as opposed to 14 per cent — in countries that applied such measures.

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