Most women prefer to work and a majority of men agree, the ILO-Gallup report says

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GENEVA / WASHINGTON (ILO News – Gallup) – The ILO-Gallup report, “Towards a better future for working women: what women and men think“(Towards a better future for women and work: Voices of women and men), it provides the first ever assessment of the general behaviors and attitudes of women and men towards women at work. The results come from the Gallup Global Survey conducted in 142 countries and territories interviewing nearly 149,000 adults. They represent over 99% of the world’s adult population.

The results speak for themselves: a total of 70% of women and an equivalent 66% of men prefer women to work in a paid occupation. These figures are double the percentages of those who prefer women to stay at home. Globally, women prefer to have a paid job (29%)1 or being able to work while taking care of their family (41%), according to the joint ILO-Gallup report. Only 27 percent of women want to stay at home.

Among the 70 per cent of women who want paid work, there is in particular a majority of women who are not part of the workforce2. It should be noted that this is true in almost all regions of the world, including several regions where the activity rate of women is traditionally low, such as in Arab states and territories.

The opinions of men and women converge

According to the report, in many cases the opinion of men is very comparable to that of women.

28% of men want women in their family to have paid jobs, 29% want them to stay at home, and 38 want them to be able to do both. Globally, women who work full-time for an employer (more than 30 hours per week as defined by Gallup) tend to prefer situations where they can combine work and family / household obligations. Highly educated women and men are more favorable to women who combine paid work and housework.

“This survey clearly shows that most women and men around the world prefer women to work for pay. Family policies, which allow women to continue working and progress in paid work and which encourage men to do their fair share of housework, are essential to achieving gender equality at work, “says the Director General of the ‘ILO, Guy Ryder.

In addition to probing their preferences for working women, respondents were asked whether it was acceptable for women in their family to have a paid job. Women were more likely to find paid work perfectly acceptable (83 percent), while men were slightly behind (77 percent).

Families play a significant role in shaping these attitudes: Among women in families where it is inconceivable for women to work outside the home, about one in three would like to have a paid job. Globally, adults are slightly less likely to favor women in their household who work outside the home if there are children under 15 in the family.

How does the public perceive women at work?

Work-family balance

Across the world, however, reconciling work and family responsibilities is a real challenge for working women. Indeed, in the vast majority of the countries and territories analyzed, women and men cite the “balance between work and private life” as one of the main challenges faced by paid workers.

Major problems in various regions of the world also include other issues such as unfair treatment, abusive practices, harassment at work, shortages of sufficiently remunerative jobs and wage disparities.

In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, many people cite reasons that fall into the ‘unfair treatment / discrimination’ response category at work (19%) such as work-life balance (18%). In Northern, Southern and Western Europe, more people mention work-family balance, but equal pay is also seen as an important issue.

In North America, people are more likely to cite pay inequality (30%), followed by work-life balance (16%) and unfair treatment / discrimination (15%). In North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Arab states, the answer “family members don’t approve of women’s work” is among the top five most frequently mentioned obstacles for working women.

The perception of the barriers that working women face changes with age. Young women between the ages of 15 and 29 are more likely than older women to mention unfair treatment, abusive practices, or workplace harassment. While people between the ages of 30 and 44 are more likely than women of other age groups to mention the lack of affordable childcare services for their children and loved ones. As women get older, they are more likely to cite wage inequality than men.

Women’s Income and Employment: Towards Greater Equality?

Globally, most working women say their income is a significant (30%) or main source (26%) of family income. Men are even more likely to say they are top income earners: 48 percent of workers say what they earn is their family’s main source of income.

However, between working and highly educated women and men, the gap in their contribution to household income is small.

Globally, women and men share the same vision of women’s employment opportunities. The report found that if a woman has the same level of education and experience as a man, men and women around the world tend to say that she has an equal chance of finding quality work in the city or region they live in. . Worldwide, 25% of women and 29% of men say women have a better chance of finding a good job. Evidence, however, shows gender gaps in labor markets around the world.

However, these attitudes vary from region to region and greatly according to women’s education level and activity rate. North America, for example, leads the regions in terms of perceived equal opportunities. In the region, the majority (55 per cent) say that a woman with similar qualifications as a man has an equal chance of finding a good job. Men (60%) are more likely than women (50%) to think so.

Furthermore, Northern, Western and Southern Europe, as well as Eastern Europe, believe more than other regions that women with the same experiences and educational levels as men have worse prospects than they do.

Globally, the more educated women are, the less likely they are to see better opportunities on the job market for women who are equally qualified as men. However, men’s views on the outlook for women don’t change much with their level of education.

The report should help shape the ILO’s future actions as part of its Centenary Initiative for Women at Work, which aims to achieve full and lasting equality between men and women in a changing world of work.

“The world must promote gender equality and empower women in the workplace. Not just for the sake of women, but for the sake of all humanity, ”concludes Jim Clifton, President and CEO of Gallup.


1 The question asked took into account the fact that women live in different realities, depending on their age, their marital status, the presence of children in the home, their level of education and whether they live in an urban or rural area. . Some of these factors could affect their preferences. The term “paid work” does not distinguish between wage and self-employment income, between the formal and informal sectors, nor does it refer to the quality of working conditions.

2 Those who have not been employed in the last seven days, neither by an employer nor by a self-employed person, who were not looking for work AND / OR have not been able to start working are interviewed outside the world of work. They can be full-time students, retirees, people with disabilities or housewives; however, some respondents do not fit into any of these categories.

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