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Lack of support for motherhood undermines women’s career prospects, says OECD

[Brussels, 19 December 2012] The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] has just released its report on Gender Equality “Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now”. The report analyses the existing gender gap in terms of education and employment between men and women in the 31 OECD members countries, showing that gains in female education attainment have contributed to a worldwide increase in women’s participation in the labour force, but considerable gaps remain in working hours, conditions of employment and earnings. In particular, lack of policies supporting motherhood undermine women’s career prospects, thus contributing to increasing gender gaps.

In OECD countries the gender pay gap is on average 16% in full-time jobs. This gap reaches 21% at the top of the pay scale, suggesting the continued presence of a glass ceiling. Even though progress has been made in narrowing the gender gap in pay, especially in employment, a lot remains to be done in many countries. While for couples without children the pay gap is 7%, it widens impressively in families with one or more children (22%).

Childcare normally eats up one wage, so there is often little or no financial gain from both parents working or at least working full-time. Part-time work among women is therefore quite most common.

Crisis-driven cuts in public sector employment, where women account for just under 60% of the total workforce, will worsen womens’ position in the labour market in coming years. Governments must make sure that spending cuts do not reverse progress made in gender equality in employment, says the OECD.

The impact of pay inequality is dramatic over a woman’s lifetime. Having worked less in formal employment, but having carried out much more unpaid work at home, many women will retire on lower pensions and see out their final years in poverty. Living an average of nearly 6 years longer than men, women over 65 are today more than one and a half times more likely to live in poverty than men in the same age bracket.

"Closing the gender gap must be a central part of any strategy to create more sustainable economies and inclusive societies,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said at the launch of the report at the OECD Gender Forum in Paris. “The world’s population is ageing and this challenge can only be mastered if all the talent available is mobilised. Governments should make further progress in the access and quality of education for all, improve tax and benefits systems, and make childcare more affordable, in order to help women contribute more to economic growth and a fairer society."

To download the Executive Summary of the Report, click here.

To obtain the full publication, please visit the OECD website.

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