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The issue of gender employment

in your interestGender employment is a mainstream issue which has become a talking point in the global work environment. The discussion, which has evolved, concerns itself with the participation of males and females in the labour force as it relates to the notion of equality and opportunity in employment.

Given the widely held view that women are discriminated against in employment and are often paid less than their male counterparts for doing the same job, the discussion has gained currency. With the evident increase in the number of women being employed in various sectors, the charge of marginalization of women in society, based on the claim of discrimination of women in employment, is now a subject of challenge.

It may be accurate to state that in the past, women often had less access to productive resources, education, skills development and labour market opportunities than men in many societies. In this contemporary era, however, this has drastically changed as women now have equal access to education and skills development opportunities, which enhance their chances of higher employability.

Whereas this generally applies within progressive westernized societies, the same cannot be said of some societies in other parts of the world. In the case of such societies, women are still ascribed to the traditional role of housewives or domestics, or are deemed best suited for jobs in agriculture. The problem that surfaces here is the tardiness or reluctance of these societies to change the status quo. The extent to which this obtains has been summarized by the conclusions drawn by experts, who have expressed the opinion that in the developing world women continue to form a large majority of the world’s working poor, earn less income, and are more often affected by long-term unemployment than men.

International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention C111 – Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) 1958 laid the basis for equal opportunity of employment for males and females. Barbados has been a signatory to this Convention since October 14, 1974. Notwithstanding the ratification of this convention, the evidence supports the fact that male employment predominates over that of females, despite the fact that females make up the larger portion of the population in most societies.

The ILO reports that “women’s participation in the U.S. labour force climbed during the 1970s and 1980s, reaching 60 per cent in 2000. However, in 2010, this figure has declined to 46.7 per cent and is not expected to increase by 2018.”  Based on the available high level of education and training, and the promotion of equal opportunity, the statistics coming out of the USA as the world’s superpower, are absolutely interesting.

Data produced by the 2015 Continuous Household Survey in Barbados, which was published in the June 17, 2015 edition of Barbados TODAY showed that Barbados had a workforce of 124,300 persons, comprising of 63,500 males and 61,300 females. This represents an absolute minimum disparity. From the two information samples, it would seem that female employment has gained currency.   

What now can be said about the matter of equal pay? In 1951, the ILO adopted Convention 100 – Equal Pay Remuneration. This convention speaks to the right to equal pay without discrimination on the grounds of gender. This convention was ratified by Barbados on September 19, 1974 and has been enforced.

This question of unequal pay is therefore not expected to be an issue. Other Caribbean countries which are signatories to the convention are Trinidad & Tobago, Antigua & Barbuda, St Lucia, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti and Jamaica.

It is a matter of interest that the USA is not a signatory to ILO Convention 111.  This is extremely interesting since the USA promotes the rights and freedoms of the individual. According to the ILO, equality in pay has improved in the USA since 1979 when women earned about 62 per cent as much as men. In 2010, American women on average earned 81 per cent of what their male counterparts earned.

Based on the fact that some 172 countries have ratified ILO Conventions 111 and 100, this would lead to the conclusion that the gender employment issue should not be a major subject of the day. The fact that it still remains cause for concern, seemingly has to do with whether these conventions are being applied and/or observed.


(Dennis DePeiza is a labour management consultant with Regional Management Services Inc. Send feedback to rmsinc@caribsurf.com)

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