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close this bookBuilding-related Income Generation for Women - Lessons from Experience (Habitat)
close this folderPart one - Background
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentI. Women's employment
View the documentII. The construction sector
View the documentIII. Employment of women in the construction sector

I. Women's employment

According to the estimates of the International Labour Organisation, in 1985 (see figure 1), out of a total of 2164 million workers, the number of women was 790 million, representing 36.5 per cent of the total labour force. During the period 1970-1980, more women than men entered the labour force in the "developed" countries and up to the turn of the century, female activity rates are expected to increase more quickly than male rates in Europe, Northern Africa, Southern Africa, Western South Asia and South America, and to increase at about the same as male rates in the Caribbean, Central America, East Asia and Oceania. In Africa, female rates will remain behind male activity rates, and, in the developing countries as a whole, female participation in employment will remain stagnant at about 30.3 percent.

Women workers, particularly in developing countries, are underestimated in statistics, largely because they concentrate in informal labour markets and in agriculture. They are particularly under-enumerated in trade and in many service occupations. Women had increasing opportunities in the service sector during the period 1970-1980, but these opportunities were uncertain and temporary. The occupational and wage gap between women and men continued in most sectors, although it narrowed in most countries. A visible increase in women professionals was noted, but women's representation among administrators, managers and policy-and decision-makers is still negligible.

Figure 1. Regional distribution of female labour force: 1985 (percentage)