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.
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.
How would increasing employment rates and wages for women actually help?
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 There’s a long-standing myth that women don’t enjoy work, but this is largely influenced by outdated beliefs that a woman’s place is in the home and nowhere else.
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.