How an Increase in Women’s Wages and Employment Rates Impacts Family Health

Everyone and their mother has heard of the term “wage gap”, but not all of us are aware of what it really means for women and how it impacts family health.

We’ve heard of the statistics, where, even in Canada, women earn 87 cents to every dollar a man earns, if not even less. But what about women in less developed countries, where unemployment rates for both men and women are significantly higher than they are here? You could try blaming the economy or politics for this gap in employment rates and wages, but the problem is more fundamental than any of that.

Global unemployment rates are soaring, but the unemployment rates for women are significantly higher than their male counterparts. And the problem doesn’t stop there. Even in countries where female employment rates are nearly equal to male employment rates, women are still faced with significant gaps in wages.

global female and male unemployment 2002-2017

From a global standpoint, female unemployment rates are much higher than male unemployment rates. Figure 1 obviously includes developed countries as well. This does not fully demonstrate the problems faced by women in developing countries, whose unemployment rates are far lower than what is shown above.

 

But what does this mean?

In developing countries – places that are already plagued with antiquated gender roles and households where domestic abuse is common – women are far more likely to face unemployment than men. As of 2012, the global labour force, totaling roughly 3.3 billion, was made up of 1.3 billion women. That’s only 39.9% of the labour force. In 2013, the male employment-to-population ratio stood at 72.2%, while the ratio for women was 47.1%. I wish I could say that the majority of women don’t want to participate in the labour force, but for a huge number of them, this is far from the case. Social and economic factors are to blame for the gender bias in employment.

gender-gaps-in-unemployment-rate-by-region-2002-2012.png

(Figure 2 provides a more in-depth view of regional gender gaps in unemployment. The gender gap is a massive problem in countries within North Africa as well as the Middle East. Latin America and the Caribbean also have a fairly significant gender gap in unemployment.)

 

How would increasing employment rates and wages for women actually help?

Economic Growth

The most obvious benefit is economic. Women want to work, so why limit them? Women are just as likely to contribute to both local and global economies as their male counterparts. There’s a long-standing myth that women don’t enjoy work, but this is largely influenced by outdated beliefs that a woman’s place is in the home and nowhere else.

labour force participation rate by sex in 2012

As shown in figure 3 above, labour force participation is dependent upon much more than just gender. In Mozambique, for example, more women than men participate in the already large labour force. This is unfortunately not an effective measure of economic growth, as the quality of jobs as well as wage inequalities play a key role as well. Mozambique, however, is still in the childhood of its economic growth and has made significant improvements in the last several decades.

 

Lower Birthrate

Working women are statistically less likely to have more children than they can afford. There remains a strong correlation between poverty and an increase in birthrate. However, in the countries where birthrates are the highest, the infant mortality rates are also the highest. Because of the incredible amount of poverty in these regions, many parents can’t afford basic necessities for their children (i.e., food, shelter, medical care, etc.). Not to mention that more money means more access to sexual health education and birth control.

Improved Outcome of Existing Children

Women’s wages, unlike men’s wages, are almost entirely cycled into their families. While men focus on buying things, women focus on buying necessities and experiences for their children. By giving women the opportunity to control how money is spent within the household, children would be given more opportunities, resulting in a brighter future for them and their communities.

Fewer Cases of Domestic Abuse

While women are not the only ones who suffer due to domestic abuse, they are more likely to be the victims in these situations. More than a third of all women, globally, have reported being in abusive intimate relationships. A staggering 38% of murders of women are committed by a male romantic partner. By increasing female employment rates and wages, women would be significantly less dependent upon men. This means that if a woman wants to leave an abusive situation, she has the financial freedom to do so, putting both herself (and any children she has) at a lower risk of abuse.

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4 thoughts on “How an Increase in Women’s Wages and Employment Rates Impacts Family Health

  1. This has been a big issue in New Zealand. The Government recently compensated which means some people, particularly health workers ( eg : working with the elderly ) could be receiving an extra $100 a week.

    • An extra $100 a week is honestly staggering. Imagine if other countries/cities did the same thing, especially in regions where the wage gap is even more extreme!

  2. Hey 🌸
    Thank you for raising this issue and enlightening us.
    I usually think about it but in vain. What’s the way out? What can be done?
    Or we should wait for another revolution for the society to change for it’s betterment?

    • Think of this Margaret Mead quote every time you think that nothing can be done to change the way things are:
      “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

      You don’t have to wait for a revolution to happen (and I’m not saying you should start one, either). Gather a group of like-minded people. Go to city council meetings. Talk to politicians. Get people involved in the cause on social media.

      There are so many things you can do to make your voice heard. Eventually, the people with the power to do so will be forced to listen to you. Good luck!

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