A Quantum Leap for Gender Equality: For a Better Future of Work For All


This report was published by the International Labour Organization (ILO) on March 7, 2019. It discusses the status of women in the labour force, a century after ILO adopted its first two Conventions on women and work – Night Work (Women) Convention, 1919, and Maternity Protection Convention, 1919.

The report’s 146 pages are divided into three chapters: ‘Minding the Gender Gaps’ (chapter 1), which highlights the obstacles to decent work for women, such as caregiver responsibilities and unequal pay; ‘Paths to Gender Equality in the World of Work’ (chapter 2) discusses ideal conditions of work for women, such as violence- and harassment- free working environments; and ‘Towards a Transformative and Measurable Agenda for Gender Equality’ (chapter 3), which discusses steps to attain such conditions.


  1. In a global sample survey conducted by ILO in 2018, around 70 per cent of women said that they would prefer to be doing paid work. Yet, only 45.3 per cent of women had a job. This means that there is a gap of almost 25 percentage points between ‘desired’ and ‘actual’ employment rates for women.

  2. In emerging economies, women are more likely than men to work in the informal sector. Often, they are engaged in occupations which are the vulnerable to ‘decent work deficits’, such as domestic or home-based work.

  3. Women are more likely to be informally employed than men in over 90 per cent of Sub-Saharan African countries, 89 per cent of countries in South Asia and almost 75 per cent of Latin American countries. Many of these occupations are made further unfavourable to women based on factors such as ethnicity, disability and migrant status.

  4. Women are more likely than men to be employed in occupations that are considered to be low-skilled, such as clerical support workers and service and sales workers – occupations in which a fourth of women are employed, globally.

  5. In 2017, the report states, there were 164 million migrant workers worldwide, and 68 million were women.

  6. ILO estimates from 2013 show that there are 11.5 million migrant domestic workers throughout the world, and 73.4 per cent of them are women. The South-East Asia and the Pacific region had the most number of women migrant domestic workers (24 per cent), followed by Northern, Southern and Western Europe (22.1 per cent), and the Arab States (19 per cent). Globally, over half of the male migrant domestic workers are found in the Arab States (50.8 per cent), followed by Northern, Southern and Western Europe (11.3 per cent) and South Asia (10.9 per cent).

  7. The report states that women managers tend to have a higher level of education than their male counterparts. Globally, 44.3 per cent of women managers have an advanced university degree, compared with 38.3 per cent of men managers.

  8. Globally, mothers of children up to five years have the lowest participation rates in managerial and leadership positions in organisations: 25.1 per cent of managers with children under six years are women, and 74.9 per cent of them are men. About 68.6 per cent of managers without young children are men, and 31.4 per cent are women.

  9. The stereotype that women should take on the primary responsibility for unpaid care work at home has affected the value attributed to women’s contribution to the labour market. Women are seen as secondary earners, and work in care professions is seen as an extension of women’s unpaid care work. Thus, such work is significantly undervalued. The report states that ‘substantive equality’ cannot be achieved unless work done by women is fairly valued and remunerated.

  10. The report expresses the need to address discrimination and overcome stereotypes related to women in the world of work. For this, it suggests the following 'paths': passing and enforcing laws that give women and men equal rights, such as those that prohibit violence and harassment at workplaces; better infrastructure, social protection and public care services for women; aiding women in learning new skills required for work; and increased women’s participation and representation in institutions and organisations.

    Focus and Factoids by Nivedita Gautam.


International Labour Organization


International Labour Organization


07 Mar, 2019