Reducing the gender gap reduces the income gap - IDESA

Report Nº: 79921/03/2019

Reducing the gender gap reduces the income gap

Women’s Day calls for reflection on the multiple facets that women´s discrimination take shape. A particularly important one is in the access of women to the labor market. If many poor women who do not work today could do it, poverty could be cut by half. On March 8, a new International Women’s Day was […]

On March 8, a new International Women’s Day was celebrated. A day that seeks to emphasize that work must continue to reverse the discrimination suffered by women in different areas of social life. A very visible and important area where gender discrimination is particularly intense is in the labor market.

The structure of the employment is very illustrative. Considering people in full working ages (20 to 59 years of age), among males, 85% are employed, 5% seek employment and only 10% are inactive. Among women, only 60% work, 5% seek employment and 35% are in labor inactivity. If only the group of adults with low levels of education (incomplete or lower secondary) is observed, the gaps are deeper since only half of women hold a job.

Besides the gender issue, the high rate of labor inactivity among women has very negative economic and social consequences. In this regard, according to the INDEC household survey, it can be observed that:

  • Among households with low-educated adult women who do not work or receive any welfare, poverty is 50%.
  • Among households with low-educated adult women who do not work, but receive some welfare, poverty drops to 36%.
  • Among households with low-educated adult women who work, poverty is reduced to 28%.

These data show that the incidence of poverty is very sensitive to women employment. In households where women work, poverty is half than that in families where women are in labor inactivity. The information also indicates that welfare reduces poverty, but with much less intensity than the work does. In other words, women employment is a very powerful tool to reduce poverty and promote social development.

The positive impact of women at work occurs even when women with low levels of education are inserted in low-quality jobs. 80% of employment among women with low education is as unregistered employees, informal self-employed and as paid maids. Only 20% get a registered salaried job. This explains why more female employment reduces, but does not eradicate poverty. It also suggests that, if it were possible to increase the quantity and the quality of women’s jobs, the dream to eliminate poverty turns quite achievable.

A massive generation of female jobs is the most effective way to promote social development. For this to happen, a sound macroeconomic policy, a deep improvement in the management of the education system, a complete review of the labor regulations (that were promoted to protect women but achieved the opposite result) and sexual education are needed. A much more difficult and slow progress to achieve, but that should not be renounced, is the cultural change that leads to the naturalization of the idea that domestic tasks and especially the care of children are activities and responsibilities equally shared between mothers and fathers. This cultural change is essential to occur among those who take decisions in human resources management in the labor market.

The advanced countries show that social development comes hand in hand with the equality in labor participation of women and men. First, because women become a source of additional income within the home. Second, because work contributes to their personal and intellectual development, which substantially improves the quality of the children’s education and their independence from the male. Third, as a corollary of the previous two, because, like the man, women work contributes to the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a better income distribution.


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