One of the most striking facets of recent times has been the increasing proportion of women in the workplace Does the fact that more women are entering the labour market really mean the gap between male and female participation is closing?
Are women who look for work finding it? If they are, what are the typical characteristics of female work compared to that of their male counterparts?
An analysis of the current Rwandan labour market indicators makes it clear that the questions asked cannot be answered with a definitive yes.
As part of my work, I normally visit various offices looking for information. However, what is striking is that most women occupy clerical/ secretarial jobs while the men generally hold positions such as Director General, Managing Director and Executive Officer. Gender imbalance in terms of employment is even more pronounced in the private sector.
While government has tried to bridge the gender gap by involving women in key decision making positions, more and more women are likely to be in non-regular or typical employment.
Within the service sector, women are still concentrated in areas traditionally associated with their gender roles, particularly in community, social and personal services, whereas men dominate the better-paid sector jobs in financial and business services and real estate.
One might expect to find near wage equality in high-skill occupations where the education and training level of applicants would presumably be comparable (accountant in the banking sector or I.T Manager in any institution, for example).
This is not the case. Even in these occupations the average female wage is still approximately 88 per cent of the male wage. One of the reasons identified for the wage differences is women’s lack of negotiating capability as well as bargaining power.
While this discrimination is changing, it is still very slow. Female stereotypes, such as caring, docile care-giver and home-based worker, are still being reinforced and may be perpetuated into the next generation if restricted. Inferior labour market opportunities for women leads to underinvestment in women’s education and training.
Creating decent work opportunities for women is only possible if policy-makers not only place employment at the centre of social and economic policies but also recognize that women’s problems in the world of work are even more substantial than men’s.
And unless progress is made to take women out of poverty by creating employment opportunities that secure them productive and remunerative work in conditions of freedom, security and human dignity, thereby giving then the chance to work themselves out of poverty, the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty by 2015 will not be achieved.
While the share of women in the workplace has been rising in the recent past (courtesy of government efforts), improved equality in terms of quantity of male and female workers has yet to result in real socioeconomic empowerment for women, an equitable distribution of household responsibilities, equal pay for work of equal value, and gender balance across all occupations. In short, true equality at work is still a pipedream.
The author is a Journalist, The New Times