INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION
THE DIVERSIFICATION OF WOMEN'S EMPLOYMENT:
A FALLACY OR A REAL STEP FORWARD?
(Analysis of the situation in selected
industrial market economy countries)
"There were not yet, as it were, any occupations from which women were
excluded. There were women butchers, chancellors, iron workers, shoemakers,
glovers, belt makers, haberdashers, purse makers, hat makers, furriers, book-
binders, gilders, painters, silk weavers and embroiderers, grocers, blacksmiths,
goldsmiths, as well as women in many other trades."
("Les femmes au Moyen-Age", Eileen Power, Aubier History series.)
When, in the future, historians or sociologists attempt to trace the
development of the role played by women in the twentieth century, they will be
able to point out some of the major stages in the process without any difficulty.
After the basic demand for equal educational rights for girls and boys had been
granted, followed by the long struggle for political rights, the Second World War
marked the beginning of the campaign for equal remuneration for women workers for
work of equal value (in particular under the impetus of ILO Convention No. 100
(1971) and Article 19 of the Treaty of Rome). Finally, a movement which began
in the 1960s is now gathering momentum in favour of greater equality in employ-
ment, whether in terms of access to employment, vocational training or advancement.
The efforts that were waged in the 1960s to enforce compliance with the
principle of equal remuneration showed that the root cause of wage inequalities
lay not only in openly discriminating practices, which are now prohibited by law
in most countries, but above all in the existence of a dual labour market which
employed men and women in different, non-interchangeable jobs. This explains
why efforts are now being made almost everywhere towards broadening the employment
opportunities open to women.
These efforts are encouraged by the fact that unemployment in most of these
countries affects women more seriously than it does men.1 Studies on this
problem2 have shown that the current employment crisis does not adequately explain
this greater vulnerability, which is, in fact, related to specific problems:
women's lack of skills, which makes them more exposed to the effects of technolo-
gical change, the burden of family obligations, the difficulty of gaining access
to training programmes and finally, most important of all, the persistent
tendency to divide up occupations on the basis of sex all factors whose cumula-
tive effects are magnified in the current economic situation.
The present study is an attempt to review the measures whether of a legal
nature, affecting employment or vocational training policy or taken by employers'
or workers' organizations which have been taken in selected countries to broaden
the employment opportunities which are open to women.
- 2 -
I. The existence of two parallel
The characteristics of women's employment in those market economy countries
which have reached an identical stage of industrialisation are well known and will
not be described in detail here: women are generally employed in repetitive or
boring occupations which require little skill and are concentrated in a very
limited number of sectors. The fact that as a rule men are traditionally
supposed to seek gainful employment whereas women take care of the house has
meant that the qualities women have had to acquire and develop in order to carry
out their domestic and family obligations have come to be regarded as specifically
feminine virtues: the real value of these qualities, which are concerned with
people and their needs, although highly sought after in some forms of paid employ-
ment (teaching, health care, etc.), is not reflected in the salary scales.
Furthermore, close complicity seems to exist between employers who believe it is
in their interests to foster the idea that women are a source of extra, and
therefore marginal, labour, and those women who are anxious to measure up to the
image they have of themselves through the mirror of the mass media and society as
a whole. It is accepted that some occupations which are particularly suitable
to women should be less well paid than those held by men.
In this way it can be seen that women workers are concentrated in job
categories involving work of a subordinate nature. Even while it is true that
some branches in the services sector have become mixed (with the proportion of
women varying between 40-60 per cent in some countries), the jobs themselves are
not; in France, for example, the percentage of women in middle and top management
rose regularly between 1954 and 1957. However, more detailed analysis of the
jobs covered by these categories shows that women tended to congregate in occupa-
tions involving no power of command over other workers primary and secondary
school teaching. There were very few women in professions involving a power of
command: engineering and top management.3
This partitioning of jobs exists, moreover, at every level, even for women
with a university education. A study carried out in Great Britain in eight
industrial firms on the employment of women in positions of responsibility4 shows
that although women with higher education have posts in research, advisory and
specialist roles, very few are in line management. The main reasons put forward
for excluding them from positions of responsibility are the difficulty of placing
women in charge of men and the lack of appropriate qualifications on the part of
women. Another reason given is that women exhibit discontinuous work profiles.
As a result, they are excluded from middle-management positions from which they
could be promoted and are given rank-and-file jobs instead.
The existence in most countries of protective legislation prohibiting certain
kinds of work by women is not unrelated to this problem of female segregation in
the field of employment.
In a country like Great Britain, where one-third of women workers are covered
by protective legislation, the provisions of a law such as the Factory Act of
1961 regulating hours of work are considered to be an obstacle to equality.
Employers maintain that the regulations in fact prevent them from integrating
women workers into the labour force on an equal footing with men iince they pro-
hibit, in particular, the use of female labour on night shifts.
For this reason, such protective legislation is increasingly being called
into question, and an undeniable development in attitudes on the subject is
currently taking place,5 as can be seen from a recent verdict handed down by the
Court of Nuremburg in the Federal Republic of Germany on an appeal lodged by a
young woman against a law prohibiting her from working on a building site and
practising the trade of carpenter. The Court was of the opinion that this pro-
hibition was due not to biological reasons but tg functional differences instituted
by society, which were no longer relevant today.
In France, the Minister of Labour and the Secretary of State for Women's
Employment have asked the National Council for the Prevention of Occupational Risks
to carry out an in-depth analysis of the protective regulations for women workers
with a view to determining what arrangements should be made to ensure that such
regulations do not constitute an obstacle to women's access to employment.
Another example in Spain also shows to what extent protective legislation
can contribute to occupational segregation. The National Railway Company (RENFE),
which has 27,000 workers and is one of the major Spanish employers, has signed a
collective agreement granting women the right of access to all categories of work.
However, 10,000 women who applied for the 1,000 posts which were available for
assistant drivers and forwarding agents are still awaiting approval (so far
refused) from the Ministry of Labour, which argues that the jobs would require
women to work at night.7
The above examples show that one of the first steps that must be taken to
ensure greater diversification of employment for women is to update the special
protection provisions periodically in the light of technological and scientific
progress. This was in fact recommended in the Declaration adopted by the ILO in
1975 on Equality of Opportunity and Treatment for Women Workers (Article 9, para-
graph 4) and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women, adopted by the General Assembly in December 1979 (Article 2, para-
graph 3). It is generally agreed that as a result of technical progress, many
occupations have now lost their hitherto arduous nature. Driving a bus, for
example, does not involve anything like the same physical strain for a woman as
before. Such considerations explain the position which has been taken up by the
Nordic countries, whose legislation is indeed marked by an almost total absence of
special protection for women and where the absence of such legislation is regarded
as making for equality of employment opportunity for both sexes.
It should, however, be pointed out that it is not only technological reasons
which militate in favour of a better distribution of work between men and women in
society. There are also economic and social arguments as well as the desire to
satisfy the legitimate aspirations of women for more equal employment opportuni-
ties. Finally, in some countries such as France, population trends suggest that
from 1985 on, the only growth possible in the economically active workforce will
be due to the role of female labour. In the same way, there is expected to be
some shortage of skilled labour in Canada from the 1980s on, and it is essential
that women should be trained for all occupations. In other countries, young
women are already turning towards new occupations because they are unable to find
apprenticeship places in the traditional sectors. This is the case in the
Federal Republic of Germany where there are fewer and fewer training opportunities
available for posts suchqas office employees, sales assistants, medical assistants,
nurses and hairdressers. In Belgium, where 60 per cent of unemployed workers
are women, underemployment and unemployment among them are thought likely to
become even worse if male and female occupations are not integrated in the near
One cannot help noting in this connection that when the higher interests of
the State have required that female labour should be used to fill jobs left vacant
by men called up for military service, there has been no dearth of ideas on how to
mobilise this female labour as rapidly as possible. Thus, in France, in 1916
"the solution was quickly found. Albert Thomas, Minister of Munitions at the
time, proposed and put into practice a scheme to mobilise women for industry and
give them access to jobs which had been virtually closed to them before". This
involved a whole series of measures ranging from the recruitment of women for work
in metallurgy and engineering to the granting of higher wages in the munitions
industry and the organisation of various agencies in charge of recruitment as well
as the installation of facilities such as creches, day nurseries and nursing rooms
to encourage women to work. The effort was highly successful, since the propor-
tion of women in these jobs rose from 20 to 40 per cent during the war.10
This has undoubtedly led some authors to believe that the cause of
occupational segregation is to be found in factors which are inherent in the social
and economic system of the Western world. According to these writers, this seg-
regation meets one of the requirements of the system of intensive accumulation of
capital which characterises their economies. "The segmentation of employment
appears to be a way by which employers faced with uncertainty can acquire some
degree of freedom in modifying the pattern of wages and creating a flexible use of
labour. This degree of freedom is subject to the restraint imposed by the social
order, which follows the laws of mass consumption. This restraint implies protect-
ing the position of the 'hard core of wage earners', i.e. the nation's male popula-
tion aged between 25 and 55, living in urban areas, who, without being immune to
unemployment, are increasingly better protected against its financial consequences.
In opposition to this 'hard core' are 'all the others who make up industry's
reserve forces and whose only common factor is that conferred by the process of
However, while it may serve the interests of some employers to restrict
women to jobs that are monotonous and uninteresting, such a policy is certainly
not always rewarding. Their complaints about the high rate of absenteeism
amongst women workers and their high turnover are well known. Yet this behaviour
should be linked with the fact that one out of two women workers, for example in
the Federal Republic of Germany, complains about assembly-line work, uninteresting
jobs and the feeling of being exploited.12
Although it is undeniably true that these are a series of factors in favour
of greater diversification in the employment of women, it must nevertheless be
acknowledged that they have not had much impact so far on the kinds of jobs which
women hold. What is even more alarming is the fact that despite the existence of
relatively egalitarian opportunities for training and education in most of the
countries studied, the same segregation found in employment reappears persistently
in vocational training and education.13 Whilst it is also true that the number
of girls attending general educational or vocational schools has risen considerably
over the last 20 years, the kind of training which they receive in fact limits
their opportunities for employment. They apply for places on the shortest kinds
of training courses in a limited number of subjects and when they leave the educa-
tional system, their qualifications are lower than those of boys and their know-
ledge gives them access to only a very small number of jobs.
This phenomenon can be partly explained by the qualitative inferiority of
the diplomas brought about by the lack of diversification in the training programmes
and the large numbers of girls on some of these courses. Moreover, this training
only rarely qualifies participants for promotion. This is true not only for most
of the semi-skilled jobs held by women in industry, but is valid also for shorthand-
typists whose opportunities for being upgraded or promoted are very limited,
whereas the administrative assistance positions, which are more often than not
held by men, offer access to posts further up the scale. In the same way, nurses
or elementary schoolteachers (mostly women) do not enjoy the same opportunities for
promotion as doctors or teachers in secondary or higher education.
It may be wondered whether the segregation in employment which affects women
workers is due to the relatively limited range of occupations they choose or
whether it is due to the fact that girls are influenced in their choice of occupa-
tion by the absence of any real equality of opportunity and promotion prospects in
certain occupations traditionally reserved for men. There is undoubtedly an
interplay between both these factors and any action to diversify the employment of
women will necessitate first of all attention being paid to their training.
However, a phenomenon to which attention is drawn more and more frequently -
the "over-qualification" of girls or women for the jobs they hold nevertheless
suggests that job segregation is not entirely to be attributed to the type and
nature of vocational training. Employers very often complain about the lack of
qualified female labour but consider girls who hold technical diplomas as over-
qualified because they are unable to offer them any promotion. Even so, the
situation is far from being such that equality between the sexes can be said to
exist at the training level, and statistics are available to confirm this view.
In Austria, at the end of 1977, 80 per cent of the girls serving an apprenticeship
did so in only ten occupations.14 In Sweden, girls accounted for 53 per cent of
the persons who started-their vocational training in 1976 and 91 per cent of the
candidates for training in the medical profession and health services, 89 per cent
in accountancy and office work, 89 per cent in services but only 19 per cent in
industry.15 In Switzerland, the number of boys undergoing one of the various
forms of training whether as apprentices, in vocational schools or at univer-
sity is twice as high as that of girls and it is only in the teacher-training
colleges and middle-level schools that the proportion is reversed.16
Although in France girls now account.for the majority of candidates who pass
the general certificate of education (baccalaur6at), they represent only 41 per
cent of the students who obtain the vocational training certificate (CAP). 7
Furthermore, 94.5 per cent of the women holding the vocational training
certificate have been trained in textiles, clothing and the services sector and
only 8 per cent of young women hold the advanced technician's diploma (BTS) in
industry: engineering, electrical engineering, electronics, chemistry and bio-
chemistry, whereas 61 per cent hold the secretarial diploma.
These examples, and many others which could have been given, show that great
differences still separate the education and vocational training of boys and girls.
This phenomenon has been examined in many studies carried out in recent yearsI8
and has led the OECD to conclude that "while legislation protecting women's rights
to equal access is frequently necessary, it is not sufficient. In fact most of
the initiatives taken by the countries reviewed emphasised the need to take posi-
tive measures to encourage women to remain in education, to re-enter education
later in life and to choose fields of education traditionally dominated by men".19
The experience of the socialist countries in Eastern Europe shows that this
segregation in employment cannot be adequately explained by the lack of opportuni-
ties for vocational training. In the socialist countries, where the training of
girls is not only strongly encouraged but the use of female labour is systematically
planned and even based upon economic necessity, differences according to the sexes
still remain. It is true that female employment patterns in these countries are
different from those in the industrialized market economy countries, since women
are represented in a far greater number of industries. Thus there are many more
women working in scientific and technical professions such as medicine, engineer-
ing, etc. On the other hand, in the middle ranges of the occupational hierarchy,
men predominate in skilled and managerial positions. Since these differences
cannot be attributed to any discrimination in vocational training, it would appear
that many factors other than the absence of opportunities for such training are
involved in the employment of women.20
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II. Recent measures to diversify
the employment of women
It was pointed out at the beginning of this study that more and more
countries are turning their attention to the problem of the marginalisation of
female labour and are developing policies and measures aimed at broadening
women's vocational horizon and improving their access to an increasingly wide
range of jobs. Some of these measures form part of the legislation adopted in
the fight against discrimination in employment; others are the result of general
vocational training or employment policy; thirdly, there are the measures taken
at the plant or industry level by employers' or workers' associations.
The United States was the first country to introduce anti-discrimination
legislation when it passed a Civil Rights Act in 1964 which prohibited all kinds
of discrimination in employment, including discrimination based upon sex. By
setting up an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission responsible for enforcing
its provisions, the Act provided the United States with a body whose activities
have developed and matured over more than 20 years to the point where employers
can no longer remain unaware of its decisions in their recruitment practices and
promotion policies. The Commission's activities which are of most interest to
the present study concern those which relate to the elimination of "systemic
discrimination". Whereas the Commission used almost all of its funds during the
early years of its existence to settle individual cases, it now devotes much more
attention to the fight against systemic discrimination, which results in the
exclusion of groups of workers from certain kinds of jobs or promotions. An
Office of Systemic Programmes has been set up specifically to deal with this kind
of discrimination. Some of the members of the Commission are legally empowered
to initiate indictment proceedings of a far-reaching nature and investigations are
undertaken in accordance with plans which have been drawn up in such a way as to
exert maximum impact by being directed against persons who most flagrantly violate
the principle of equality. Between 300 and 400 major actions of this nature have
been instituted in recent years. The Commission is supported in its efforts by
those case law decisions of the US Supreme Court which reinforce its authority.
Thus at the time of the Griggs versus Duke Power Company case in 1973, the Court
upheld a decision of the Commission which defended the idea that job selection
criteria which entailed the exclusion of minorities or women from some kinds of
posts were inadmissible unless the employer could show that such criteria were due
to the nature of the work involved or were justified on the grounds of pressing
necessity to his undertaking. This theory of employment discrimination the so-
called "adverse impact" becomes the cornerstone in the defence against illegal
employment practices when deliberate discrimination on the part of the employer
cannot be established in any other way. Another major decision of the US Supreme
Court was taken in the Weber versus Kaiser Aluminum Company case in 1979, which
established the legality of the practice whereby an employer or union reserves a
quota of posts in the company's training programme to certain minority groups, with
a view to mitigating or compensating the effects of hitherto discriminatory prac-
Still in the United States, measures which have been taken under another Act,
namely the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act and in particular as amended
in 1978, may also have extremely positive effects on the employment of women. One
of the measures advocated by these amendments in fact concerns precisely the need
to diversify employment. The Bureau of Women collaborates with the departments
responsible for the administration of employment and training in fighting against
stereotyped models and in devising programmes which guarantee women access of
employment to non-traditional sectors. Of the many measures which have been adop-
ted to implement the 1978 amendments,21 the following example can be given which
defines a "stereotyped" occupation as any employment in which the proportion of
women falls below 25 per cent. In such cases, the competent authorities must take
steps to guarantee suitable training to a sufficient number of women in order to
redress the situation.
Other countries and some of them quite recently have adopted legislation
against discrimination in employment containing provisions which not only seek to
eradicate such discrimination but also to restore a balance in cases where the
opportunities and availability of training or employment are markedly different
Most of this legislation has been adopted to ensure conformity with the
Council Directive of the European Communities dated 9 February 1976 on the imple-
mentation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access
to employment, vocational training and promotion, and working conditions.22
Article 2, paragraph 4, establishes that the Directive "shall be without preju-
dice to measures to promote equal opportunity for men and women, in particular by
removing existing inequalities which affect women's opportunities in the areas
referred to in article 1" (access to employment, including promotion, and to voca-
tional training and working conditions). In most cases this legislation there-
fore departs from the equality principle in order to correct blatant inequalities.
However, on the whole, these instruments include no obligation for employers,
unions or governments to take the necessary positive steps to abolish occupational
A recent study on the impact of the Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination Acts in
Great Britain23 points out that the Sex Discrimination Act, unlike the Equal Pay
Act, "is essentially a negative and passive piece of legislation. Its aim is to
eliminate discrimination on the grounds of sex in employment, education and in the
provision of goods, facilities, services and premises. Although it permits
positive discrimination in training in certain circumstances and gives the Equal
Opportunities Commission the duty of promoting equality of opportunity, it does
not place an obligation on employers, unions or relevant government and other
institutions to take positive steps to break down segregation in jobs and to create
genuine equal opportunities in employment". The author concludes that it is
therefore not surprising "that the effects of the Act in the organizations studied
have been very limited. Little has been done and little has changed".
The Belgian Act on equality of treatment between men and women24 also includes
provisions for exceptions to the equality principle when the aim is to remedy the
inequalities "that exist in practice and that affect opportunities for women".
This provision concerns the special vocational training programmes aimed at
enabling girls to take up occupations hitherto inaccessible to them. In addition
to making the adoption of such measures possible, the Act also grants the Crown
power to issue regulations introducing positive discrimination in certain areas,
in consultation with employers, unions and women's organizations.
Thus the Commission on Women's Employment is at the moment preparing an
opinion which is expected to recommend the introduction of a quota system to ensure
better female representation in certain parts of the civil service.25
The same type of exception appears in the Netherlands Equal Opportunities
Bill. The text provides for departures from the equality principle as regards
measures to encourage equal opportunities for men and women, in particular where
the aim is to remove existing inequalities, for example special training schemes
for women to enable them to take jobs previously closed to them.26
In Sweden, an ordinance adopted in August 1976 on equality between men and
women in the civil service prescribes measures to abolish the division of labour
into professional groups on the basis of sex and to ensure that men and women have
the same opportunities for training and promotion. The ordinance requires the
authorities to draw up plans each year which fix the goals to be reached in such
sectors as the recruitment of women in occupations traditionally reserved to men
and vice versa, personnel training, promotion, the delegation of responsibilities,
However, the Act which has just been passed in Sweden (and came into effect
on 1 July 1980)27 undoubtedly goes farthest in defining employers' obligations.
Article 6 of this Act states that whenever vacant posts are to be filled, the
employer must ensure that candidates of both sexes apply and take the necessary
steps, as the case may be, in particular by organising vocational training in such
a way that men and women are equally represented in the various occupations and
categories of workers. In cases where such equal representation does not exist,
and when new workers are recruited, the employer must make a special effort to
attract applications from persons belonging to the sex which is under-represented
and ensure that their proportion increases progressively.
Measures resulting from training or
As was pointed out at the beginning of the article, governments have become
aware of the need to offer women a wider range of both jobs and vocational train-
ing and, to this end, various programmes have been put into effect, particularly
under the impetus of governmental departments responsible for proposing policies
and measures to improve the conditions of women who work.
Thus, in Belgium, one of the recommendations put forward by the Commission on
Women's Employment,28 which reports to the Ministry of Employment and Labour, as
part of a programme for solving the problems resulting from the rise in female
unemployment, was to encourage "a better distribution of all available posts
between jobseekers of both sexes (an effective and equal opening up of posts to
jobseekers of both sexes, in particular by prohibiting sexually oriented advertise-
ments for situations vacant)". The Commission also requested that when posts are
created, attention should be given to drawing up advertisements for vacancies and
recruitment criteria in such a way as to ensure effective equal opportunity for
women. The Commission stressed that a real political will was necessary in this
area and proposed that campaigns should be undertaken to make employers aware of
women's qualifications, to make male workers accept the presence of women in jobs,
to convince the managers of the National Employment Office of the equal aptitudes
of men and women workers, and lastly to make women themselves conscious of the
opportunities open to them.
During the discussions on this programme within the Commission, employers
emphasised that they would oppose any coercive measures such as the establishment
of quotas for recruitment proposed by the workers' representatives. In their
view, this would be unrealistic since the criteria of qualifications, aptitude and
experience should alone determine the choice of applicant. They also believed
that measures aimed at granting special preferential conditions to mixed employ-
ment (economic expansion laws, National Employment Office, public funds) would be
inappropriate since such advantages should be granted only on the basis of economic
criteria and, in any case, such restrictive measures would risk, in the final
analysis, prejudicing the recruitment opportunities of women.
This is not a position which has been adopted by all governments. In Sweden,
a number of semi-restrictive measures have been introduced to encourage employers
to recruit more women in occupations which are traditionally reserved to men. In
various regions where there are limited opportunities for employment, the State
grants aid to firms that expand their operations. This aid is provided for
investments in building and machinery as well as for the training of personnel.
Since 1974, an attempt has been made to run a pilot scheme with sex quotas to
encourage the employment of women. The scheme ran until July 1979 and firms
received aid if they recruited at least 40 per cent of workers from each sex. A
preliminary evaluation of the results during the first two years of the scheme
shows that the proportion of women in firms receiving aid rose from 19 to 21 per
cent. Women accounted for 35 per cent of new recruits; this was lower than the
statutory level of 40 per cent, the difference being due essentially to the grant-
ing of exemptions permitting the recruitment of highly skilled staff. However,
compared with firms in the same industries which did not receive aid, women 29
increased their share of employment. In an evaluation carried out in 1978, the
National Labour Market Board concluded that this experiment was very encouraging
and believed that the "quota" stipulation had meant that premises had been planned
from the start for the employment of both sexes (wash rooms, toilets and rest
rooms, etc.). It has thus made it possible to know if there are enough qualified
women and has given the employment service time to arrange suitable training.
These points have led the National Labour Market Board to regard this measure as
its "best instrument for achieving equality" and to hope that it can be established
on a regular footing. In evaluating the results of this sex quota experiment, it
should be borne in mind that it was carried out in parts of Sweden where the level
of male employment is below the national average and where, consequently, the idea
that any work should be reserved in the first place for men was deeply entrenched.
The quota system has undeniably given women a better chance to assert their rights
to employment in the face of these prejudices and traditions. However, the Swedish
Government has also intervened in another way. A pilot project was launched in the
county of Kristianstad in 1973 with the aim of encouraging women to choose tradi-
tionally male occupations in industry. Women were invited to a day of talks
organised by the local employment service and were subsequently given a course last-
ing four to six weeks called "training for working life". After a week of theory,
the remainder of the course consisted of several trial periods in various firms in
the area. Having completed the course, the women were generally able to choose a
regular job in one of the places where they had practised. During the course,
they received an allowance equal to the minimum wage. Six pilot projects based on
the Kristianstad model have been launched and have enabled 2,000 women to find
jobs. However, it would seem difficult to measure the impact of this pilot pro-
ject since, during the same period, a greater number of women took up traditionally
male jobs in the country as a whole.
Another measure which the Swedish Government has taken is to grant subsidies
to employers who recruit and train men and women in posts which they do not tradi-
tionally hold. The subsidy amounts to 8 crowns an hour for six months (14 crowns
in some counties). The type of jobs for which the subsidy is granted are rela-
tively limited, and one of the reasons for the measure's lack of success lies pre-
cisely in the granting of a variable subsidy; for this reason, the Labour Market
Board would like the same subsidy to be applied everywhere, i.e. 15 crowns, and to
see the restriction to certain occupations lifted, so that the measure may be used
whenever an employer takes on a worker in a non-traditional trade. Under the
present system, this subsidy cannot be granted if local unemployed labour is avail-
able, which means, for example, that it cannot be used in all the regions of the
country to raise the proportion of men working in the nursing profession since the
number of unemployed women nurses is high.
Similar or closely related experiments have been carried out in other
countries to try and improve employment opportunities for women. In Norway, since
1 January 1979, subsidies of 20 crowns an hour for six months have been granted in
two counties to employers who recruit persons for jobs not traditionally held by
their sex. In the Netherlands, it is reported that the Utrecht Regional Employment
Department has set up, from 1 January 1980 for an experimental period of one year,
a special section to help women to take up "male" jobs. Since one employer is
already supporting the Utrecht Employment Department, special courses have been
arranged for women wishing to work in a sheet metal works.30
In France also various measures have been taken at the regional level as part
of a campaign by the Secretariat of State for Women's Employment to diversify the
employment available to women. For example in the Loire region, pretraining and
guidance courses lasting three weeks have allowed 30 women to take up jobs as auto-
mobile electrical specialists; long-distance lorry drivers; car mechanics; and
painter-decorators. In the Belfort district, 15 girls without any special initial
training have been taught skilled jobs as lathe and milling machine operators and
have obtained work in these occupations. In the department of Hautes-Pyr6n6es,
ten women have been able to take advantage of training facilities and obtained work
as adjusters for quartz watches and clock and watch makers. In Haute-Savoie, a
survey of unused employment opportunities has led to the setting up of an informa-
tion service on jobs in carpentry and automobile engineering. Finally, in the
Dr6me, training courses for car mechanics have been organised and the Association
of Automobile Repairers has agreed to play an active part in finding employment for
women who have completed their training in diesel mechanics, warehousing and
In an attempt to ensure a greater exchange of experience on this problem common
to all countries wishing not only to absorb female unemployment but to give women
access to economic activity on an equal footing with men, the Secretary of State
for Women's Employment in France organised a round table which was attended by
representatives of various European countries to review the progress achieved to
date. It emerged from the information presented to the meeting that there has been
some evolution in France in the attitudes of managers, who are more open than before
to the idea of female recruitment in some new sectors. Opportunities are now
available to women in the "finishing" trades in building (painting, glazing, tiling
and carpet fitting), woodworking trades (joinery, cabinet making, furniture restora-
tion), service trades (electrical repairs radios, television, household
appliances), public transport (driving) and in trades such as automobile or bicycle
repairs, automobile repairs (electrical), as well as in foodstuffs (confectionery
and delicatessen). In broadcasts grouped together under the theme of "Women and
their access to all trades", attempts are being made through an information campaign
on television to make women aware of their choice of career.
One gratifying feature is that the French Government's policy of diversifying
the jobs open to women is not only improving the occupational pattern of women's
employment but may also be a vital factor in the campaign to bring life back to
rural areas. At present, many girls who are brought up in the country train as
typists or dressmakers even though there is no chance of finding work locally. If
they were trained for other trades, these girls could have a better chance of find-
ing a job on the spot.32
- 10 -
In Great Britain, despite the fact that this country was one of the,first to
introduce legislation against discrimination in employment, the situation does not
seem to have changed much more quickly than anywhere else over recent years. A
survey carried out by the Equal Opportunities Commission at the end of 1976 showed
that segregation in employment was still widespread in industry and was one of the
major obstacles to achieving real equality between the sexes.35 The study noted
that rates of pay are often higher in jobs into which women find difficulty in
moving, where the work itself may be more satisfying, and may often lead to promo-
tions and consequently greater development of individual potential.
The measures recommended by the Equal Opportunities Commission to break down
this segregation include the following:
recruitment literature should contain illustrations of men and women workers
doing the same type of job;
when traditionally "male" or "female" jobs are advertised, it should be
stressed that applications are welcome from both sexes;
if there are few women currently employed in a certain type of work, they
should be actively encouraged to apply for it;
when promotion opportunities arise, candidates from as wide a catchment area
as possible should be considered;
-as concerns vocational training, the Training Services Agency should assist
the Industry Training Boards to identify young women's needs, to advise
employers on policies to be followed and to support their action;
the Commission goes as far as to recommend the introduction into the criteria
for levy exemption the provision for women of a specified level of training
for work traditionally dominated by men. Finally and this is a measure
which appears original and important it suggests that supportive action
should be taken, in relation to women entering a traditionally male area for
the first time, to counter any problems of isolation or even possible hostility
from their colleagues. For example, the Engineering Industry Training Board
Scheme in the Midlands has placed girl apprentices in groups of three or four
and in different work environments, to help cope with this problem.
In the Federal Republic of Germany, the Federal Government and the Lander are
also making efforts to interest more girls in non-traditional occupations. They
have given their support to pilot projects providing training for girls in "male"
occupations. These pilot projects have shown that the girls were very successful
in these technical trades and an attempt is now being made to give maximum publicity
to the project. The Federal Labour Office is also endeavouring to extend the
employment opportunities for women and some job descriptions have been adapted
accordingly and now include, in addition to the usual male title, a corresponding
female one (e.g., Kaufmann has become Kaufmann-Kauffrau).
The following table34 shows that the efforts made by the Federal Ministry of
Education have borne some fruit. The number of girls by comparison with the total
number of trainees in some typically male branches rose constantly in 1976, 1977
1976 1977 1978
Total Girls Total Girls Total Girls
Mechanics (automobile) 73 284 84 80 373 114 88 633 208
Mechanics (general) 11 243 30 11 322 34 11 680 102
Electricians 50 702 57 46 533 63 48 614 105
mechanics 11 011 123 10 305 187 12 011 255
Painter-varnishers 27 311 197 30 048 343 34 370 621
Joiners 26 481 264 30 079 382 35 139 627
- 11 -
In Austria, the authorities responsible for manpower policy have decided to
launch a comprehensive programme to eradicate the traditional segregation of the
labour market, and to encourage a choice of occupation free from any prejudice.
The programme includes various measures such as:
(a) the distribution of posters in schools showing girls engaged in trades which
are new for women and with. the caption "Technical trades are 'in' for women";
(b) the vocational guidance provided by employment offices has been reorganised
and categories established on the basis of sex have been replaced by categories
based on occupations;
(c) preparatory courses have been organised for girls intending to take technical
training, firstly by the Viennese Social Democrats Women's Committee and,
subsequently, on a wider basis, by the Chamber of Labour and the "Metal,
Mining and Energy" trade union. Unfortunately and this observation confirms
the apprehensions of those who believe that poor vocational training of girls
is far from being the major obstacle to their entering "male" occupations -
there were, in May 1980, 130 girls who were unable to find apprenticeship
places after completing the preparatory courses.
In the United States, the Department of Labor has taken various steps to
increase the number of women employed in skilled blue-collar jobs from which they
have traditionally been excluded. For example, regulations came into effect in the
spring of 1980 aimed at granting equal opportunity to women and minorities in the
construction industry and in apprenticeship programmes, and set the regulations,
goals and timetables to be met by federal contractors for the employment of women
in the construction industry in those sectors where they are very seriously under-
represented, as well as in apprenticeship programmes leading to skilled occupations.
As a result of these regulations, employers in the construction industry must
show a "good faith" effort to achieve the following goals for women: 3.1 per cent
by 31 March 1979, 5 per cent by the end of 1980, and 6.9 per cent by 31 March 1981.
Among actions required of all contractors and subcontractors that have federal or
federally assisted construction contracts in excess of $10,000 are:
increasing applicant flow of women for consideration for employment;
maintaining a working environment free of harassment, intimidation, and
coercion at all sites and in all facilities where employees work;
where possible, assigning two or more women to each. construction project;
ensuring that all supervisory personnel are aware of and carry out the obliga-
tion to maintain such a working environment;
seeking referrals from all female recruitment sources;
maintaining records on female referrals from unions and the reasons why any of
these individuals are not employed;
developing on-the-job programmes for the areas which expressly include women.
As concerns apprenticeship, the regulations issued in May 1978 set a goal for
the first year that women should represent at least one-fifth of new candidates in
all sectors. To meet these objectives, the regulations emphasise the importance
of positive recruitment measures, which include such. action as:
giving to women's organizations and publications directed towards women
maximum information possible on apprentice places available to women, with such
information being disseminated regularly or at least 30 days in advance of the
date for application for programmes advertised at only specific intervals;
initiating programmes to prepare women and encourage women to enter
traditionally male occupations;
admitting to apprenticeship persons whose age exceeds the usual maximum where
such action assists the sponsor in achieving affirmative action obligations. 5
- 12 -
Jointly with the Bureau of Women, the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training
has furthermore prepared information material which draws women's attention to
training opportunities and skilled occupations and gives advice on the apprentice-
ship system and the role and obligation of employers.
As was noted above in the case of Sweden, the employment offices in the Nordic
countries are responsible for the development of more equal recruitment and employ-
ment practices. To this end, in Denmark, the Council on Equality has proposed
that a number of employment counsellors should collaborate with the employment
services in eliminating all barriers which encourage the distribution of jobs on
the basis of sex, whether due to employers, undertakings, the educational system,
public administration staff or the candidates themselves.
These employment counsellors must undergo special training to reinforce their
belief in the importance of equal opportunity in employment and help them understand
the kinds of obstacles which still remain as well as the demands of this or that
job and its working conditions. They must therefore be prepared to give sexually
unbiased advice, based essentially on the candidate's capacities and qualifications.
In Finland, the employment officers must endeavour to influence the attitudes of
both employers and candidates and the Ministry of Labour has recommended that such
officers begin by examining critically their own beliefs and, where applicable,
follow courses to break down any of their own sexual prejudices.
On the other hand, in Finland it is thought that to prevent employers from
specifying the sex of the workers they wish. to recruit might make them dispense with
the services of the employment offices, which could be detrimental to women.
Measures taken by employers' and workers'
It is difficult to say to what extent employers' and workers' associations are
in favour of this movement for women's employment.
It emerges from the fragmentary information available that the attitude of many
employers remains one of the principal factors in job segregation and that their
prejudice against recruiting women in certain industries or trades is still very
strong. They seem prepared to modify their attitude only if they are unable to
find any male candidates to fill certain jobs, and it is for this reason that the
shortage of skilled labour may, in the final analysis, operate in favour of women
if they agree to train for the skilled jobs.
Arguments are more frequently advanced on the workers' side in favour of open-
ing up all kinds of employment to women. Indeed, unions are reported here and
there to have encouraged the training of women in non-traditional occupations. In
Austria, for example, the Metallurgy, Construction and Energy Trade Union has taken
the initiative, in collaboration with employers, in offering girls training in
selected occupations in metallurgy.37
In Sweden, as part of the agreement signed in 1977 between employers and the
country's two major trade union organizations, a number of guidelines have been
drawn up on ways to eradicate prejudices that such and such a trade is better
suited to one sex rather than the other. In particular, a recommendation has been
made to start up pilot projects in various undertakings and to introduce action
programmes setting the goals to be achieved each. year in recruitment, training,
promotion, etc. The results of the pilot projects will be analysed regularly by
both parties to the agreement for the purposes of subsequent planning.
It should not be forgotten, however, that trade unionists themselves do not
always look upon this evolution of women's employment very favourably. A study
carried out in Great Britain on equality between the sexes in industry shows that
there is some resistance on the part of trade unions against any measure aimed at
breaking down segregation. The attitude of trade unions is even regarded by some
companies as a substantial barrier to progress, especially in printing, chemicals,
packaging and pharmaceutical manufacture. Some plants in these industries still
retain separate union branches by sex.
- 13 -
A recent French report39 states that "in the light of the problems of rising
unemployment, the reduction or redistribution in hours of work, abolition of the
discrimination suffered by women on the labour market is not one of the major
demands of the unions".
In Canada, the "Women in Trades" Association held its first conference in
February 1978 to help women who face difficulties on taking up an apprenticeship
in trades traditionally reserved to men.
This Association is the only workers' organisation of its kind in Canada and
its objective is to offer more outlets to women. It believes that women attempt-
ing to break into certain trades need a platform where they can talk about their
experience in these new occupations. The organizers of the conference attribute
the growing interest of women in trades from which they had been largely excluded
since the Second World War to a number of factors, including the attraction of
higher pay. Furthermore, an increasing number of women now decide to enter the
labour market not only to gain economic independence, but also in order to develop
themselves; hence their interest in obtaining and following training as joiners,
automobile mechanics and electrical appliance repairers. One of the leading
speakers invited to the conference stressed that employers, unions and the Govern-
ment needed to co-ordinate their activities so that women could be guaranteed equal
opportunities on the labour market. She pointed out that women who tried to enter
a trade managed to gain acceptance by employers and unions only through their
spirit of relentless obstinacy. It was encouraging to note that some women had
recently managed to gain such acceptance in non-conventional sectors but she said
that it should not be forgotten that it was very difficult to be a pioneer.
The idea of an active labour policy based on the creation of a uniform job
market without sexual discrimination means that men and women must be given the
opportunity to acquire training in trades traditionally reserved to the opposite
sex. This idea is now accepted by the trade union organizations at the inter-
national level. Thus the International Federation of Commercial, Clerical and
Technical Employees, comprising 171 organizations from 77 countries throughout the
world, accepted this recommendation at its 18th World Congress, which adopted a
comprehensive action programme (1979).
It is difficult to evaluate the effects of measures which have been taken so
far to diversify women's employment, firstly because such measures are sometimes
isolated initiatives concerning only a limited number of areas and, secondly, because
they are too recent and their influence cannot be viewed in proper perspective.
This influence should not be gauged solely in terms of direct effects, i.e. the
skills acquired by the women concerned, but also in terms of indirect effects as
manifested in the development of attitudes leading to a new division of labour where
sex is no longer a decisive factor.
Thus in Norway the experiment in training women for occupations in the engineer-
ing industry is considered to have proved that women were perfectly capable of doing
work which had previously been allocated to men. As a result of this success, a
tripartite working party has been set up to examine future measures for encouraging
similar experiments in the construction industry.40
A study carried out in Austria in 1978 for the Federal Ministry of Social
Affairs by the Austrian Institute for Research in Vocational Training ("Vocational
training of women in metallurgical trades") on 120 girl apprentices in non-
traditional trades showed that the economic argument used by employers about the
higher costs entailed by recruiting women for "male" trades was ill-founded. For
example, it is very rare nowadays to find factories which are not equipped with
toilet and washing facilities for both men and women, since in any case women are
employed in such factories.41
The study also revealed that prejudice against training girls in non-
traditional metallurgical trades was greater in the male teaching staff of technical
schools than with instructors and workers who participated in on-the-job training.
- 14 -
In the Federal Republic of Germany, most of the pilot projects for training in
non-traditional occupations which have been launched by the Government or the Lander
were started up in the autumn of 1978 and will end only in 1980 or 1981; it is
therefore difficult to estimate what the final results will be. However, a survey
made in February 1979 showed that only a very small number of girls (less than 5 per
cent) had dropped out. There had in general been many more applicants than places
available, except in a few branches which were less attractive to girls. The
average standard of education of the female candidates was much higher than that of
the young men undergoing the same training. Although, according to the instructors,
the training had posed no technical, physical or psychological problems to the girls,
they did sometimes express apprehension about their opportunities for finding jobs
once they left the protected world of the pilot project. However, the organizers
believe they will have no difficulty given the shortage of skilled workers. What
can be said on the basis of these preliminary results is that those pilot schemes
for training in "male" occupations which have been introduced here and there will be
useful as possible models and bring potentially positive results only if they are not
too isolated and, above all, if they are not restricted to a very limited number of
candidates. The experiments have also shown that integration into the world of
"male" work brings psychological as well as occupational problems to women, which
must be dealt with one way or another if the pilot experiments are to be successful.
Women who find themselves in the minority on a course or in a training centre very
often, in fact, gradually lose the confidence and motivation they acquired at the
vocational guidance stage. Experience in Austria has shown that support has had to
be given to girls, especially at the beginning of the training, since boys have
always begun with an advantage which was due to their education.
The training experiment carried out in the Federal Republic of Germany indicated
that some of the girls who were engaged in the process of achieving equality with men
in employment nevertheless retained absolutely traditional ideas on the role of women
and men in the family and society in general. This shows that the girls needed to be
supported in their efforts and that, as noted above, the difficulties of their occupa-
tional integration were not so much a question of qualifications as of psychological
"blocks" on the part of their employers as well as the candidates themselves.
A tentative list of the various factors which will affect the way in which the
division of tasks between men and women will develop in the future would have to take
account of the fact that the forces at work will pull in conflicting directions, some
positive and others negative.
The factors making for change include:
-the greater attachment of women to work, even when they are married and have
continuing progress in the vocational guidance and training of girls;
the less segregational attitude of young persons of both sexes who would like to
see a more equitable division of responsibilities at every level: at work, at
home and within the family;
the increasingly frequent use of legislation, particularly in the European Com-
munity but also in other countries, setting up bodies for enforcement or arbitra-
tion. According to an American study,42 one of the most important incentives to
change in recruitment practices is the fear of heavy financial penalties;
-the lack of skilled personnel in some countries.
On the other hand, two basic factors may well have a negative impact on this
rising unemployment, triggering off the old self-defence mechanisms of men against
competition from women, and which encourages the view that "a woman's place is in
technological changes, particularly the introduction of microtechnology. However
it is difficult to say at the moment what impact this inevitable technological
revolution will have on skills in some of the branches of the services sector
where women play a major role (banking, insurance, posts and telecommunications,
office work, etc.) and to what extent women will have to undergo technical train-
ing for industry more frequently than in the past.43
- 15 -
Another very difficult obstacle to the breaking down of female segregation in
employment is what one writer has called "the institutionalisation of occupational
segregation".4 This institutionalisation has come about as a result of various
factors, prominent among them being legislation stressing role differences between
men and women, e.g. protective labour regulations applying to women or laws relating
to marital status or social security, which for many years encouraged'women to be
financially dependent. The predominantly male membership of professional associa-
tions, trade unions, clubs etc, also contributes towards reinforcing this pattern of
A study carried out in Great Britain on the impact of equal pay and equal
opportunity legislation has illustrated the importance of these structural and
organisational factors. Women's opportunities at work are limited in part by
practices and criteria reflecting male career patterns, such as the length of
service, traditional promotion channels, geographical mobility and hours of work.
Does this mean that no really startling results may be expected from the kind
of measures outlined above as long as these institutions and practices remain un-
challenged? There is evidence that resistance by the current work environment and
organisation is perhaps greater than might be thought. However, since this organisa-
tion of work is now beginning to be questioned (for example by the new arrangements
concerning hours of work) and may undergo major changes in the coming years as a
result of technological progress and the new balance of economic power in the world,
this may perhaps give some hope to women that their specific contribution will be
greater appreciated in the world of work and that their opportunities will equal
those of men. It is, in any case, in this direction that efforts must continue to
- 16 -
Whereas the unemployment rate for women in the countries of the European
Community, expressed as a percentage of the total civilian working population, was
the same as for men in 1974 (2.9 per cent), it rose to 6.7 per cent in December
1979, when the rate for men remained at 4.9 per cent (source: Eurostat, statistical
telegram, December 1979).
2See, in particular, "The Impact of the Recent Economic Slowdown on the
Employment Opportunities of Women", May 1977, WEP.2-32/WP.4, summarised in the
International Labour Review: "The economic slowdown and women's employment
opportunities", ILO, January-February 1978.
"Travailleuses Combat pour une liberation", CFDT-Information, 1979.
4"A career for women in industry", by Nancy Seear, Veronica Roberts,
John Borck, Oliver and Boyd Ltd., London, 1964, p. 90.
See the series of articles published on the subject in the International
Labour Review, 1980, Vol. 119, Nos. 1 and 2.
6Women of Europe, No. 8, Brussels, March-April 1979.
Information communicated to the ILO by a representative of the workers'
8See the series of articles published on the subject in the International
Labour Review, 1980, Vol. 119, Nos. 1 and 2.
"Frauen auch als Metzger und Busfahrer", Arbeit und Wirtschaft 6/79, p. 5.
S"Travailleuses Combat pour une liberation", op. cit.
11 "Panorama sur les theories de l'emploi", M. Aglietta, Revue economique,
No. 1, January 1978, pp. 80-120, quoted in a document of the General Commission on
Planning. Preparation of the VIIIth Plan. Administrative Group on Women's
Activities, Paris, October 1979, document No. I.A.1.
Survey carried out by a Committee for the rationalisation of the German
economy, quoted in Manpower Argus, No. 128, March 1979.
1Detailed information on this subject is given in "Le travail et la formation
des femmes en Europe", Frangoise Lautier, Centre for Studies and Research on Quali-
fications, Vol. 4, October 1972 (Documentation frangaise).
14 "Frauenarbeit-Frauenrecht", Arbeit und Wirtschaft, op. cit., 1/80, 1980,
1Sweden, National Labour Market Board: Equality in the Labour Market
Statistics (Stockholm, 1977).
1"Education, emancipation et activity feminine", Femmes suisses, March 1980,
17 "Les discrimination et les disparit6s dans le travail f6minin", report
presented to Robert Boulin, Minister of Labour and Participation, and Nicole Pasquier,
Secretary of State for Women's Employment, October 1979, p. 42.
1See, in particular, the documents presented to the Seminar on "the Participa-
tion of Women in the Economic Evolution of the EEC Region", Paris, 9-12 July 1979.
- 17 -
19 OECD, "Equal opportunities for women", Paris, 1979.
20 "USSR women at work: changing patterns", Gail Warshofsky Lapidus, Industrial
Relations, Vol. XIV, No. 2, May 1975.
21 See the Federal Register of 10 January 1979.
22 Official Journal of the European Communities of 14 February 1976, No. L39/40.
23 "The equal pay and sex discrimination acts: their impact in the workplace",
by Nandy Snell (document sent to the ILO).
24 Economic Reform Act, dated 4 August 1978, title V Equality of treatment as
between men and women in matters relating to conditions of employment and access to
employment, vocational training, promotion and self-employment opportunities,
Moniteur belge, 17 August 1978, No. 157, p. 9106.
25 "Belgium implementing the principle of equality", European Industrial Relations
Review, No. 65, June 1979, pp. 23-25.
26 European Industrial Relations Review, op. cit., No. 62, March 1979.
27 Svensk Fbrfattningssamling, 1979, No. 1118.
28 Activity Report IV, 1978.
29 "Equality on the labour market between men and women A task for the National
Labour Market Board A Swedish report", by Berit Roll4n, National Labour Market Board,
Sweden (Conference on the Implementation of Equal Pay and Equal Opportunity Legisla-
tion for Women in the United States, Western Europe and Canada, 1978).
30 Women of Europe, No. 12, November-December 1979.
31 Dirigeant, August-September 1979, No. 101.
32 Women of Europe, op. cit., No. 8, March-April 1979.
33"Equality between the sexes in industry How far have we come?", Equal
Opportunities Commission (1979), EOC/033/5k/4/79.
34 Women of Europe, op. cit., No. 13, January-February 1980.
35 "US Department of Labor Program Highlights" Consumer Information Leaflet,
No. USDL-67 (WB-4), November 1978.
36 "Measures for Equality between Women and Men in the Labour Market in the
Nordic countries", Nordic Council of Ministers' Secretariat, Stockholm, 1979,
37 "Frauenarbeit-Frauenrecht", Arbeit und Wirtschaft, 1/80, 1980, p. 26.
38 "Equality between the sexes in industry How far have we come?", Equal
39 "Les discrimination et les disparit6s dans le travail feminin", op. cit.,
40 "Measures for Equality between Women and Men in the Labour Market in the
Nordic countries", Nordic Council of Ministers' Secretariat, Stockholm, 1979, p. 107.
"Equal Opportunities for Women in Technical Vocations Programmes of the
Austrian Labour Market Policy". Department of Women, Federal Ministry of Social
Affairs, Austria, p. 5.
"Equal Employment Policy for Women Strategies for Implementation in the
United States, Canada and Western Europe", Ronnie Steinberg Ratner, p. 426.
For a preliminary assessment of the expected impact of micro-technology,
see "Technical Changes and Women Workers: The development of micro-electronics"
(A/Conf.94/26), World Conference of the UN Decade for Women (Copenhagen, 14-30 July
44 "Occupational segregation A comparative study of the degree and pattern
of the differentiation between men and women's work in Britain, the United States
and other countries", by Catheline Hakim, UK Department of Employment Research,
paper No. 9, November 1979, pp. 52-53.