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International Women's Day 2017: Women in a changing world of work

UNESCO-UNEVOC will join the world on 8 March to celebrate International Women’s Day. This year’s theme “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030” brings to fore the need to promote an equality of access and opportunities in education and skills acquisition that enables a greater female participation in a dynamic labour market.

Every year the day puts the spotlight on issues related to gender equality and empowerment, and this year’s theme is particularly relevant to technical and vocational education and training (TVET); equal access for all to quality education, skills acquisition and technical training are essential to promoting women’s participation in the labour market. As stated by UN Women: The world of work is changing, and with significant implications for women. On one hand, we have globalization, technological and digital revolution and the opportunities they bring, and on the other hand, the growing informality of labour, unstable livelihoods and incomes, new fiscal and trade policies and environmental impacts—all of which must be addressed in the context of women’s economic empowerment.

Women in the labour market

Estimates on female to male labour force participation reveal that female participation is 32% less despite a near parity in terms of their share in the global population (49.5%) . It is noteworthy that the global female labour force participation has increased marginally in the recent years amid gradually intensifying opportunities for women to enter into remunerated work. However, differences in labour market conditions across countries result in disparities of working conditions, remuneration, and the equality of access and opportunities. According to the World Economic Forum, the global average annual earnings of women have increased by 83% during the period 2006-2015 against a 91% increase in that of men during the same period, but the absolute figures continue to indicate a substantial gap in earnings.

TVET and gender equality

Amid all the transformations in the demand for skills in the labour markets, it is imperative to address the suboptimal equality of access to training and educational opportunities particularly in the field of TVET.

As the global development discourse gears up to achieve the targets identified in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, gender equality has been identified as a goal in itself (Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5). However, this year’s theme holds special resonance to specific targets related to TVET identified under SDG 4 on Education, for which UNESCO is a lead coordinating UN agency.

  Sustainable Development Goals 4 Targets

With its strong links to employers and the labour market, TVET is ideally placed to address these challenges. TVET programs themselves can sometimes be gender-biased, affecting the access to and participation of women in specific occupational areas. Young women, particularly in some developing countries, are especially disadvantaged in this regard due to community or family beliefs that undermine the potential role women can play to contribute to sustainable and productive livelihoods. Available training opportunities are often confined to ‘feminine’ areas, which may not necessarily lead to profitable work. Even when enrolled in training courses in more male dominated areas, girls and women can face barriers, e.g. when the learning environments are de-motivating and do not take into account their specific needs. Furthermore, gender based discrimination also confronts them once they move into the world of work where despite having the same qualifications and comparable skills, there is a disparity in the remuneration.

See Global Gender Gap, orld Economic Forum for more information.

TVET is not an exception to the trends in the world of work discussed earlier. Women remain just as likely to have fewer opportunities for skills development and decent work not on grounds of merit but just by virtue of their gender in TVET streams. Particularly in the developing countries characterized by a higher degrees of informality of labor market as well as TVET and skills acquisition mediums, ensuring an equality of access, opportunity and reward continues to be a challenge.

UNESCO’s work towards ensuring gender equality in education

Gender equality is a global priority for UNESCO and to this end undertakes a number of key initiatives in the area of education. Promoting equity and gender equality in TVET is one of the three priority areas of UNESCO’s Strategy for TVET (2016-2021). UNESCO and UNESCO-UNEVOC supports Member States to shed light on issues related to gender inequality and identify effective policies to tackle them in order to ensure that all girls and boys, women and men, have equal opportunities to learn, develop and enhance their knowledge.

Visit here to learn more about UNESCO’s initiatives for women’s and girl’s education.

Get involved

We invite you to join us in our advocacy for a more inclusive TVET eco-system that enhances opportunities of females in the changing world of work and TVET. Please follow our social media campaign on Twitter, Facebook and the TVeT Forum and help raise a call for action on an issue central to our future.

More information

  • For more information on gender related issues in education, please read the Gender Review of UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report on Creating Sustainable Futures for all.
  • UN Women article on this year’s theme.
  • UN’s page on International Women’s Day

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