Working women still held back by ideas about their place
Social norms of what a woman's role should be, as well as practical obstacles such as a lack of childcare and transport to get to work, are holding women back, the International Labour Organisation said.
Nearly half the world's working-age women have a job or are looking for one, compared to 76% of men, a gap that has hardly narrowed in the past decade and was not expected to change between now and 2021, the UN agency said in an annual report on women's employment trends this week.
"Women have trouble accessing the labour market in the first instance, but when they do enter it they have more difficulty in finding a job," Steven Tobin, a lead author of the ILO report, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"When they do find a job they are concentrated in certain occupations and don't have the same opportunities for quality employment as men," he said.
The Middle East, North Africa and South Asia had the lowest rates of women in paid work and women were mostly confined to jobs in education, social work and agriculture, the report said.
Worldwide, 70% of women and 66% of men would prefer that women worked at paid jobs, the ILO said in March.
The report also said that reducing gender inequality in the labour market could create jobs for an additional 189 million people globally, and boost the world's economy by nearly $6-trillion dollars (about R75-trillion) by 2025.
"Some of the obstacles women are facing are viewed as a cost, but helping women into the labour market can bring significant revenue," Tobin said.
"It's an investment rather than a cost."
The gender wage gap globally was estimated at 23%, meaning on average women earned 77% of what men did, according to ILO data.