Title: Equal
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00086890/00001
 Material Information
Title: Equal equal rights for working women : ILO's contribution to the United Nations decade for women
Alternate Title: Equal rights for working women
ILO's contribution to the United Nations decade for women
Physical Description: 8 p. : ; 30 cm.
Language: English
Creator: International Labour Office
Publisher: Bureau of Public Information, International Labour Office
Place of Publication: Geneva
Publication Date: 1977
Subject: Women -- Employment   ( lcsh )
Women -- Employment -- Law and legislation   ( lcsh )
Women's rights   ( lcsh )
International Women's Decade, 1976-1985   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
General Note: Cover title.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00086890
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 61199057

Full Text




The Decade for Women (1976-85) was declared by the
United Nations General Assembly in December 1975. Concerted
efforts for the Decade will be made by all the organizations of the
United Nations family. The ILO, a UN specialised agency dealing
with labour and social problems works as a catalyst to promote
national programmes designed to improve the lot of women
workers and achieve equality of opportunity and treatment for
them. The ILO's means of action include: standard-setting,
research and study, publication of study results, dissemination of
information, promotional and educational activities and technical
co-operation. The following pages summarise the ILO's response
to many problems facing women workers.

Working towards equality 2
Working for wider
opportunities 2
Working for better skills 3
Working for equal pay 5
Working for protection
without discrimination 6
Working for increased
participation 7
Working for a better
rural life 7

In June 1975, the UN World Con-
ference of the International Women's Year
in Mexico drew attention to a major
contribution made by women to social and
economic life throughout the world. It also
highlighted the contrast between this con-
tribution and the second-class position
women often find themselves in because
of their sex.
In December 1975, following the
Mexico Conference, the UN General As-
sembly declared the period from 1976 to
1985 as the Decade for Women. It set three
broad objectives: the promotion of equal-
ity between men and women, the full
integration of women into the total devel-
opment efforts and the recognition and
expansion of the role of women in world
The ILO, since its creation in 1919,
has been particularly concerned with the
problems of women workers. Its Constitu-
tion, now adhered to by 134 States,
declares that all human beings, irrespective
of sex, have the right to pursue their
material well-being and spiritual develop-
ment in conditions of freedom and dignity,
economic security and equal opportunity.
Conventions on a wide range of issues
affecting women have been adopted by the
ILO and ratified by many countries.
For many years, the ILO saw as its task
the protection of women workers against
abuse. For example, two Conventions out
of the six adopted by the first ILO Con-
ference in Washington in 1919 were for the
protection of women: one for maternity
protection and the other for prohibition of
night work, both to meet the then urgent
needs of women workers. That was about
60 years ago.
However, in response to changes in
the world of work and aspirations of
women themselves emphasis in the ILO
activities for women workers has gradually
shifted towards the promotion of equality,
although the problem of protection of
women is still relevant. The ILO Con-
ference in June 1975 adopted a Declara-
tion and a Plan of Action on Equality of
Opportunity and Treatment for Women
Workers which lay down general principles
for governments and the ILO to ensure real
equality. The Plan of Action incorporates a
broader programme for promoting equal-
ity including widening women's opportuni-
ties at work and encouraging their partici-
pation at all decision-making levels.
The 1975 Conference also requested
2 that a study be made on the need for new




international instruments concerning equal
opportunities and equal treatment for
women and men in occupation and em-
ployment, to supplement the existing ILO
instruments. Accordingly, the ILO is ex-
amining the possibility of developing new
standards for active promotion of equality
de facto and de jure.
One of the proposals in this Plan of
Action concerned the "establishment of a
unit having the responsibility to study more
closely the problems of women workers, to
promote equality of opportunity and treat-
ment for them, and to ensure that women
workers' needs receive due attention in all
respects of ILO activities". In April 1976,
the Director-General took the concrete
step of creating an "Office for Women
Workers' Questions" which would func-
tion as a focal point to promote and co-
ordinate all ILO activities concerning
women workers.

The first, and possibly the most
important, aim of the ILO policy is to
broaden women's opportunities for work.
The principle that both men and
women should enjoy equal opportunities
for work was first set forth by the ILO in
its Declaration of Philadelphia in 1944,
now annexed to its Constitution. It was
then included in the 1958 Convention
(No. 111) concerning Discrimination in
Employment and Occupation on grounds
of sex, among others, and solemnly reaf-
firmed at the ILO Conference in 1975.
The Conference highlighted many forms of
discrimination which continue to restrict
women's opportunities in employment and
Even in industrialized counties,
women workers' access to employment is
limited to a narrow range of occupations in
what are traditionally described as "wom-
en's jobs". Their chances for being up-
graded and promoted are frequently
blocked on the ground of sex, casting dark
shadows on their career prospects.
In the Third World where the majority
of women workers are engaged in a variety
of tasks in agriculture, there are persistent
constraints on their conditions of work
which tend to confine their contribution
within unduly narrow limits. These are
sometimes reinforced by cultural factors
distorting women's images as workers and
determining women's "place" at work,
at home, and in the community as a whole.
Meanwhile, economic factors are, un-
deniably, of basic importance in determin-
ing the extent of emplQyment onnortunities
available for women. Experience under the


for wider


ILO Conventions and
women's employment

The ILO has been concerned with the
problems of working women since its estab-
lishment in 1919.
That the concern has been maintained,
and developed, is underlined by the Con-
ventions and Recommendations which
have been adopted since. Here, some of the
most important with date of adoption:

No. 3 Maternity Protection, 1919
No. 4 Night Work (Women), 1919
No. 41 Night Work (Women) (Revised),
No. 45 Underground Work (Women),
No. 89 Night Work (Women) (Revised),
No. 100 Equal Remuneration, 1951
No. 102 Social Security (Minimum
Standards), 1952
No. 103 Materniry Protection (Revised),
No. 110 Plantations, 1958 (Part IlI,
Maternity )
No. III Discrimination in Employment
and Occupation. 1958
No. 149 Nursing Personnel, 1977.

No. 4 Lead Poisoning (Women and
Children), 1919
No. 12 Childbirth (Agriculture), 1921
No. 13 Night Work of Women (Agri-
culture), 1921
No. 90 Equal Remuneration, 1951
No. 95 Maternity Protection, 1952
No. Ill Discrimination in Employment
and Occupation, 1958
No. 123 Employment ( omen with
Family Responsibilities), 1965
No. 150 Human Resources Develop-
ment. 1975
No. 157 Nursing Personnel, 1977

TLO's World Employment Programme has
shown how difficult it is, at a time of chronic
and growing unemployment and under-
employment, to ensure women's right to
work on a footing of equality. In periods of
economic recession, women workers are
the first to be fired in many countries. For
example, in Belgium, the unemployment
rate for men in 1976 was 5.1 per cent, while
it was 14.3 per cent for women. In the
USA, between August 1975 and August
1976, men's unemployment fell by 452,000
while women's rose by 80,000. In France,
during the 1974-76 period, women's un-
employment as registered more than
tripled in comparison to a doubling of
unemployment for men.
Random statistics show that the prob-
lem of unemployment is still more severe in
the Third World than in the industrialized
world. For example, in the summer of
1973, 18 per cent of the female workforce
in Trinidad and Tobago was unemployed
in contrast to the much lower rate for men:
10 per cent.
The ILO, in its Plan of Action
mentioned earlier, stresses the need to
apply the same criteria to all workers,
regardless of sex, in cases of redundancy on
dismissal. It calls upon the member States
to take appropriate measures to open all
employment opportunities for women by
breaking down barriers. It also urges the
member States to strengthen their national
administrative machinery in order to give,
together with employers' and workers'
organizations, full effect to all measures
aimed at promoting and ensuring equality
of opportunity and treatment for women
As a follow-up to the Asian Regional
Workshop on "Administrative Arrange-
ments for the Exercise and Responsibilities
of Labour Departments with Regard to
Women Workers", held in Tokyo in
November 1974 with the financial assist-
ance of the Japanese Government, the ILO
organised a symposium of the directors of
women's bureaus in November 1977 in
Brussels under the co-sponsorship of the
Belgian Government. The symposium dis-
cussed various problems arising from the
operation of administrative units dealing
with women workers' questions, as well
as the measures to promote equality of
opportunity and treatment for women
As a matter of fact, the ILO has been
extending technical co-operation to vari-
ous governments to help widen the oppor-

Female population and labour force
De-veloplng and developed regions
(in mllllonsr


tunities for women's economic activities.
Besides the holding of seminars and
meetings, the ILO technical co-operation
takes the form of sending experts and
consultants to various countries and award
of fellowships, etc. For instance, under an
ILO project in Iran to help promote the
climate conducive to widening job oppor-
tunities for women, it was reported in 1976
that some progress in this direction had
been already made in increasing employ-
ment for women. One-seventh of the
country's doctors were women, the pro-
portion of women students in universities
was already equal to that in many highly
industrialized countries and a high pro-
portion of teachers and other government
employees were women.

Learning a new skill means new
opportunities and horizons for a better life.
Nonetheless, the education and train-
ing profiles of women in many countries
show that far fewer women than men
receive vocational training. Women are too
often lamentably unprepared for skilled
work and diffident about what jobs they
should train and apply for.
Attitudes stemming from economic
constraints and traditional cultural factors
create obstacles and often perpetuate
prejudices against women and their right to
extensive training and employment. Wom-
en themselves are too often influenced by
such negative attitudes, and even those
who go through vocational training tend
to seek courses of relatively short duration
for jobs traditionally labelled as "women's

jobs" or for employment at comparatively
low levels of skill and responsibility.
Although women already make an

important contribution to the national
economy, this has not been equivalent to
their potential. Their ability to participate
in national economy and in resulting
benefits is dependent, to a large extent, on
the training opportunities given to them.
The ILO has been trying to make policy
makers conscious of the importance of
vocational training of women, not only in
regard to their own needs, but also in the
interests of over-all economic and social
development of their country.
For promotion of equality of oppor-
tunity and treatment for women in respect
of vocational guidance and training, the
ILO, in its Human Resources Develop-
ment Recommendation, 1975, stressed the
need, among others, of the following
- educating the general public, and in
particular, parents, teachers, voca-
tional guidance and training staff,
employment service staff, etc., on the
need for changing the traditional
attitudes regarding the work of
women, and encouraging men and
women to play an equal part in society
and in the economy;
- promoting equality of access for wom-
en to all streams of education and
vocational training for all types of
occupations, including those which
have been traditionally accessible
only to men;
- promoting further training for wom-
en to ensure their personal develop-
ment and advancement to skilled 3

Population Developing Developed
1950 803.9 448.0
1975 I 396.6 584.3
2000 2419.6 6913

Workforce Deseloping Developed
(Current partiripalion (CurrenI participatron
rate 26.4i'rii rate J5.4,,1
1950 198.6 145.7
1975 369.0 206.7
2000 617.5 260.3
Source: ILO labour force estimates and projections 1950-2000.


for better


employment and posts of responsi-
- providing day-care facilities and other
services for children of different ages
so that women workers with family
responsibilities can have access to
normal vocational training as well as
making special arrangements, e.g.
in the form of part-time or corre-
spondence courses, vocational train-
ing programmes following a recurrent
pattern or using mass media;
- providing vocational training for
women above the normal age of entry
into employment who wish to take
up work for the first time or re-enter
it after a period of absence.
The ILO has also implemented several
technical co-operation projects which aim
at teaching technical skills and advising and
assisting member States to assess training
needs and employment opportunities and
to plan, organise, implement and evaluate
training programmes for women. For in-
stance, a major project in India launched
in early 1977 aims at developing a national
vocational training programme for women.
The ILO, with the financing of the Swedish
International Development Authority
(SIDA) will assist the Government of India
in establishing a main training centre and
two regional counterparts developing cur-
ricula, and training instructors, as well as
identifying new occupations for which
women could be trained.
The ILO has also organised various
seminars and workshops and implemented,
for example, a study-cum-seminar project
on the development of vocational training
for women workers in Latin American
countries, with SIDA's assistance, in Bogo-
ta, in the summer of 1976.
The ILO is, furthermore, giving par-
ticular attention to rural women and under-
taking various technical co-operation pro-
jects designed to promote handicrafts and
co-operatives so as to improve the condi-
tions of rural women in various parts of the
Third World.


Even where apprenticeship is avail-
able, girls frequently enrol for traditional
women's occupations, which require a
shorter period of training. In the Nether-
lands, after having concluded the element-
ary vocational training with a certificate
in 1971, 68 per cent of the boys and only
8per cent of the girlsjoined apprenticeship
schemes; 18 per cent of the boys took up
further partial education compared to
2 per cent of the girls. In the United King-
dom in 1970 there were 110 females
apprenticed to skilled crafts compared with
over 112,000 males-and of the girls going
into other training (7per cent of the total)
three-quarters chose hairdressing. Only one
girl in four received training which lasted
more than a year. In Eastern European
countries, prospects for girls have consider-
ably improved. In the German Democratic
Republic in 1972, about 80 per cent of the
students trained to operate computers were
girls. Among those trained to be chemical
laboratory assistants, mechanics in preci-
sion instrument making, agronomists and
stockbreeders, girls accounted for far more
than half.

The Lesotho project

In Lesotho, the ILO, with the financial
help of SIDA (Swedish International De-
velopment Authority), assisted the building
up of a handicraft centre with outlying
village workshops organised on a co-
operative basis to provide skills develop-
ment and job opportunities in textiles and
pottery in a rural area. The project started
in 1972 and is expected to continue until the
end of 1978.
Over 390 jobs are expected to be
created by the end of 1978. The main target
group is rural unemployed or underem-
ployed, principally women. They are en-
couraged to form co-operatives and engage
in textile and pottery handicrafts. Handi-
craft development through co-operatives
is expected to contribute to the improve-
ment of the status of rural women by pro-
viding them job opportunities, cash earn-
ings and increased participation in rural

Proportion of female labour force in agriculture,
industry, services (1975)

Developing Developed

Services Industry Industry Agriculture
(13.80lo) (123801o) (27.4301o) (20.2701o)

Agriculture Services
(793. olo) (52.30lo)

Source: ILO labour force estimates and projections 1950-2000.


Craft training has a special place in
ILO programmes for women. There are a
number of reasons for this. Craftwork pro-
duces much-needed cash income, particu-
larly for rural women. It requires little
capital investment; its main input is labour
which is abundant in rural areas; it
requires manual skills which are aften
passed through tradition, often easier for
illiterate women to learn; it can be carried
out as a home-based activity, and can also
be expanded into small family enterprises;
it mostly utilises low-cost, local raw
materials and it can be carried out as a
part-time activity.
Examples of ILO projects to promote
handicrafts are:
In an ILOIYWCAproject which began
in 1975 in Fiji, over 600 women andyoung
people have successfully acquired new
skills. Using some of Fiji's local resources
(tree bark, sisal, coconut husks) they pro-
duced screens, slippers, handbags and other
products of sufficiently high quality to
export to New Zealand. The project has
attracted women from all over Fiji.
Another scheme is in operation in
Ghana. It has concentrated on an area of
five villages (2,000 families) where a
decline in the mining industry has caused
severe local recession. The project aims
to train village women in making products
for their own use and for sale. Sixty
teachers in the area were trained in making
jewellery, pottery, soap, bamboo crafts
and embroidery, much of which can be
used locally as well as sold outside.

Geographical distribution
of the world's
female labour force

1950 1975 20m0
World (I (10I) (IO)

East Asla 23.7 31.2 29.2
South Asia 26.5 24.8 28.
Easter Europe 19.7 IS.J 11.5
West Europe 11 8A8 7.2
Africa 9.1 8.6 IOJ.
North America 58 68 6.4
Latin America 3.0 4.0 6.5
Oceania 0.4 05 0.6

Source: ILO labour force estimates and pro-
jections 1950-2000.

Pilot handicrafts project
in Pakistan

A pilot handicraft project is being
planned in Pakistan. New designs for
carpets, important exportable products in
Pakistan, will be introduced and 15,000
industrial homes or centres for training
women will be set up in villages. This
scheme hopes to achieve some success in
breaking down traditional rural prejudices
against women.

School for work

Education has been called the first
level of structural discrimination against
women in many countries. Illiteracy is a
severe disqualification from work. In de-
veloping countries, the proportion of illi-
terate women is still very high: 273 per
cent of all women in Latin America, 56.2
per cent in Asia, and 80 per cent in Africa
are illiterate.
In most countries girls tend to drop out
of school earlier than boys. In many
developing and developed countries, sec-
ondary education costs money, unlike pri-
mary schooling;faced by a hard financial
decision, fathers will usually send sons
rather than daughters to school. Often this
is due to the early age at which girls
marry-especially in the rural areas of the
developing world-or the role that they
have to play in looking after other members
of thefamily. It is not yet clearly recognized
that education can play an important part
in preparing them for work and life.
Another tendency is the different type
of education offered to girls and boys.
Because they are assumed to have a social
role to play-that of mothers and wives
rather than producers or workers, even
where equal educational opportunities are
open to them, girls are frequently chan-
nelled in to subjects such as humanities
rather than the more vocationally oriented
courses on science and engineering.
Education, in fact, has done little to
prepare young women for the exacting
demands of the job market. They probably
leave it with insufficient years of schooling
in a society where grades and degrees are
important qualifications for obtaining a
job. Or they could well have received a
totally inappropriate kind of education.

Equal pay is the first necessary step to
achieve equal rights for women in employ-
ment. As early as 1951, the ILO Confer-
ence adopted a Convention calling for
equal pay for work of equal value. This
Convention, called the Equal Remunera-
tion Convention (No. 100), 1951, gave
concrete expression to the principle of
equal pay enshrined in the ILO Constitu-
tion ever since its creation in 1919.
Up to date, over 90 countries-two-
thirds of ILO member States-have rati-
fied this Convention making it one of the
ILO's most widely acknowledged Con-
ventions. During the 1970s, some countries
passed equal pay laws going well beyond
what is required by the letter of the
Although some progress has thus
been made, equal pay still remains a major
concern even in many developed countries.
Figures show that the average wages of
women are still between 50 and 80 per cent
of those of men. While formally accepting
the principle of equal pay, many seem to
have found ways to avoid putting it into
Why, despite compelling arguments in
its favour, has the principle of equal pay
still, apparently, not been totally accepted?
A report to the 1975 ILO Conference
concerning the application of the Equal
Remuneration Convention provided some
illuminating answers. Based on a world-
wide survey, it concluded:
- Many governments point to the fact
that wage fixing within the private
sector is a matter for collective bar-
gaining, and as such outside their
jurisdiction. Many, too, do not enforce
a minimum legal wage, which can have
a marked effect on reducing dis-
- Where unemployment is particularly
serious, fears are expressed that when
the relative levels of men's and wom-
en's wages are the determining factor
in allocating whatever jobs are going,
equal pay would actually discourage
the employment of women.
- Most commonly cited was the fear of
the cost of introducing equal pay-
which might increase production costs,
and place goods at a competitive
disadvantage. But, these apprehen-
sions are caused by long-standing
prejudices as to the value of women's
work, according to the report.
- The definition of "equal work" causes
problems. In some countries both
quality and quantity are the criteria.


for equal pay

Most commonly, this has been inter-
preted as the "same work", which
gives it an excessively restrictive
meaning. The Convention speaks of
"work of equal value" in an attempt to
remove discrimination. This, however,
involves a comparison of jobs; the
report conceded that no completely
objective evaluation exists, but con-
cluded that further work is badly
needed to evaluate jobs on the basis
of the actual work involved "when
such action will assist in giving effect
to the provisions of the Convention".
- The definition of "pay" was also
queried. The Convention means it to
apply to all the supplements and bene-
fits that go with the job as well as the
wage itself.
- Information and statistics are difficult
to acquire. But the report considered
that more detailed information is
urgently needed-covering the prob-
lems posed by unequal pay, eval-
uating the progress made so far,
devising new policies, and bringing
relevant information to the knowledge
of the competent bodies and public
- In many cases, laws on equal pay do
not apply to certain classes of workers;
in others, "special cases" have been
exempted. But often the exemptions
apply to sectors which are ill-protected
by law or by trade unions, such as
agriculture work and activities in the
informal sector. And many of these
occupations, of course, employ wom-
- Despite wide acceptance of the prin-
ciple of equal pay, many people are
still unaware of it. In addition, en-
forcing equal pay legislation is very
difficult; the means of enforcement
are still inadequate almost every-
where; individual complainants are
often victimised; and frequently ef-
fective appeal procedure is not avail-
But the ILO report ends on an opti-
mistic note. First, it said that the principle
of equal pay had been recognized to an
encouraging degree. And secondly "to an
ever-increasing degree, governments are
aware that the equal pay problem must not
be treated in isolation, but must be
considered in the broader context of
equality of opportunity and treatment as
between the sexes". That context, covers
working conditions, the state of the labour
market, promotion, vocational qualifica-
tions and equality of opportunity.
The ILO contributes to every other
session of the UN Status of Women Com-
mission a progress report on equal pay all
over the world.

Maternity protection is a most impor-
tant matter for working mothers and for
society as a whole. The ILO has laid down
certain minimum standards for it in the
Maternity Protection Convention of 1919
and its revision in 1952. They include,
among others, at least 12 weeks' maternity
leave; medical care; provision of cash
benefits during maternity leave from social
insurance or public funds; prohibition of
dismissal during the leave or during any
extension of such leave in case of illness
arising from pregnancy or confinement;
and working mothers' entitlement to a
break for nursing their baby during work-
ing hours. Moreover, the Revised Mater-
nity Protection Convention, 1952, ex-
pressly states that employers shall not be
individually liable to pay cash maternity
benefits and such benefits must not repre-
sent a financial burden for individual
employers. This provision is important,
because the notion of employer liability
tends to raise the labour cost of women
workers and to limit their employment
Many countries have come to realise
the significance of maternity protection
and are assuming increasing responsibility
in this area. Several countries now provide
much higher levels of maternity benefits
amounting to 90 or 100 per cent of wages.
Another interesting development in this
connection is the extension of the period of
maternity leave without loss of employ-
ment rights. This extension has been
recommended by the ILO Recommenda-
tion on Employment of Women with
Family Responsibilities, 1965. It is now
becoming a common practice in an in-
creasing number of countries.
The 1975 ILO Conference, reaffirm-
ing that maternity is a social function,
declared that there should be no discrimi-
nation against women workers on the
grounds of pregnancy and childbirth, and
that all women workers should be entitled
to full maternity protection.
Apart from the widely recognized
need of maternity protection, many coun-
tries have protective legislation applying
exclusively to women. The prohibition of
underground work for women, restriction
of women's employment in certain occupa-
tions regarded as dangerous or harmful,
prohibition of night work, restriction of
women's hours of work and overtime, etc.,
are the common features of such special
protective legislation. The ILO has
adopted a few Conventions in this respect,
e.g. Convention No. 4 (1919), No. 41


for protection



(1934) and No. 89 (1948) on Prohibition
of Night Work in Industrial Undertakings,
No. 13 (1921) which prohibits employment
of women in painting work using white
lead, and No. 45 (1935) prohibiting em-
ployment of women in underground work
in mines.
However, with technological progress
in modern society and in accepting aspira-
tions of women for equality such legislation
designed to give special protection has
sometimes been considered discrimination
against women workers.
According to a recent ILO study "the
crux of the problem lies in determining
where protection ends and discrimination
begins". It has been proved, the study says,
that women are no more sensitive than men
to dust, gases and toxic substances pro-
duced by the smelting of certain metals
like lead, copper and zinc.
Some of the special protective meas-
ures are now considered to be outdated and
to limit unduly women's access to employ-
ment and career prospects. Conflicts have
often arisen between the privileges given to
women by such legislation and the achieve-
ment of equality of opportunity and treat-
ment. As a result, several industrialized
countries have already altered or modified
protective legislation for women in favour
of equality.
The 1975 ILO Plan of Action stresses
the need to review all protective legislation
applying only to women in the light of the
latest scientific and technological knowl-
edge. The Conference put forward the
concept that "Women shall be protected
from risks inheret in their employment

Hearts and minds

The realisation of equality in home,
world of work and in society as a whole
requires a profound change in the minds
and habits of the people.
- Education. For mostpeople the notion of
ser role differentiation begins at school.
Children at school are imbued with the
stereotyped idea: "Father works outside
home while mother keeps house and
rears children."
- Family and child care. The main problem
for working women remains how to
reconcile family life with work. A
more equitable share offamily responsi-
bilities between men and women is
needed, as well as strengthening social
infrastructure for child care. (The ILO
Recommendation on Employment of
Women with Family Responsibilities,
1965, callsforpolicy measures to enable
women with family responsibilities who
work outside their homes to exercise
their right to do so without being subject
to discrimination.)
- Part-time work. Many women have to
take part-time work because they must
take care of their home and their
children. Existing discriminatory prac-
tices against part-time workers must be
eliminated. Part-time employment
should be regulated to protect the rights,
and improve the conditions of work, of
part-time workers.
- Leisure. Studies have shown that in
12 sample countries, working mothers do
an average work week of between 70 and
80 hours, including housework; that
they enjoy only two-thirds as much
leisure time as men. Overwork creates its
own problems offatigue and even illness.
The problem of overworking women is
serious in both developed and developing

and occupation on the same basis and with
the same standards of protection as men."
That is, protection should be extended to
all workers to maintain their health and
improve the quality of life for all of them,
both men and women.
At the request of the 1975 Confer-
ence, the ILO is undertaking reviews of all
its protective and promotional standards
relating to women in the light of experience
gained since their adoption, and in the light
of scientific and technical knowledge and
social progress.

The UN World Plan of Action
adopted at Mexico in 1975 stressed:
"history has attested the active role which
women played, together with men, in
accelerating the material and spiritual
progress of people in the process of the
progressive renewal of society; in our
times, women's role will increasingly
emerge as a powerful revolutionary social
Participation lies at the heart of the
changes currently being proposed by the
United Nations. The ILO's basic needs
strategy also calls for "participation of
people in making the decisions which affect
them". Specifically, in respect of women,
the 1975 ILO Plan of Action calls for
women's effective participation in national,
regional and international bodies.

of women workers, but until women parti-
cipate more in them, it is unlikely that these
organizations will concern themselves with
questions such as day-care centres, trans-
port for commuters, and training for re-
entry in the market-all of which are
important for women.
To promote women workers' in-
creased participation in trade unions, the
ILO Workers' Education Branch is cur-
rently giving special support to activities
concerning women. Apart from studies and
seminars, fellowships are also being
granted to women to enable them to
attend courses and study programmes in
various parts of the world.
In developing countries, the figures for
unionised workers, both men and women,
are hard to come by. Women's participa-

In reality, however, the number of
women holding leading posts involving
decision making is pitifully small. At the
national level, the female members of
parliament, judges, managers, trade union
leaders, and top posts in government etc.,
have so far been in the minority, resulting
in male predominance in decision making.
Also at the international level, participa-
tion of women in decision-making bodies
of all international organizations has been
on a very limited scale, but is gradually
improving. The fact that there are still very
few women in positions of power at
national and international levels means
that decisions about women are made by
others who may not feel the same urgency
about their problems. Increased participa-
tion of women in decision making at all
levels is clearly a prerequisite of the
strategy for obtaining equality of oppor-
tunity and treatment.
To discuss this theme, a research
symposium on "Women and Decision
Making: A Social Policy Priority" was
specially organised by the ILO's Inter-
national Institute for Labour Studies in
Geneva in 1975.
As regards women's participation in
trade unions, there remains much to be
desired. The figures available for indus-
trialised countries indicate that women's
involvement in trade unions is growing
slowly in many countries. And yet there
appear to be obstacles to women getting
more involved in trade union work, in part
because they do not have adequate leisure
to participate in such activities. Trade
unions can pay more attention to the needs

Over 70 per cent of the women in
developing countries live and work in rural
In addition to household work, rural
women play a major part in cultivating
crops and tending animals-agricultural
work which is nonetheless unpaid, un-
rewarded and remains unmeasured. Often
worn out from their work at home and in
the field, rural women are constantly
burdened with frequent pregnancies and
are often malnourished. As a result, the
life expectancy of rural women working in
developing countries is frequently lower
than that of men, although the reverse is
generally the case in industrialized coun-
Owing to lack of family planning and
severe infant mortality, rural women are
often unable and sometimes unwilling to
space out births. Weakened by malnutri-

Rural poverty

For men and women alike, rural life in
developing countries is likely to mean
subsistence wages, poor health and work
which is hard and laborious. Two-thirds of
all those people designated seriously poor
(with incomes below a mean of $100 a
year) live and work in country areas. In
1971 there were 75.5 million landless
labourers in the world, earningabout50 US
cents a day. Among those underprivileged
millions, women are usually the poorest
and most vulnerable.

tion in rural organizations is usually non-
existent. And yet women have a crucial role
in rural development. The important ques-
tion is to ensure their greater participation
at all levels of decision making as a part of
rural development. One way is to promote
co-operatives and organizations of rural
workers in developing countries. The
ILO's programme on co-operatives aims at
creating opportunities for paid employ-
ment, teaching basic skills and giving rural
women more say in decisions about their
own work and their family.


for increased



for a better

rural life

Crumbling myths

II .1 b r'' ,. 1

tion and constant childbearing, their work
becomes more laborious and arduous.
Worrying about the health of their children
can also cause psychological problems. All
this debilitates women and leaves them
even less able to participate effectively in
community life.
Rural women have not benefited from
agricultural modernisation and increased
productivity, despite their contribution to
the livelihood of their families. Earnings
from crops are often taken and controlled
by men in the household; decisions about
investments within the household and even
within co-operatives are usually not taken
by women. Rural women thus lack eco-
nomic, financial and personal independ-
The ILO World Employment Con-
ference in 1976 envisaged raising rural
incomes by emphasising all aspects of rural
development-investment, technology
and above all, directing government plans
at the provision of services to meet basic
needs to increase productivity and generate
Merely generating growth or increas-
ing productivity in rural areas will only
increase what is already being called
"north-south" gap between men and
women. As with global growth, so with
family and community growth-it must be
accompanied by an equitable redistribu-
tion of resources and authority. Here the
notions of participation and equality be-
tween men and women assume enormous

SHourly rate.
2 Daily eranings.
3 Average hourly earnings.
SProduction workers. Basic wage
(monthly earnings). Japanese Year
Book of Labour Statistics, 1963

importance particularly for rural work in
the Third World.
Despite considerable social and cul-
tural barriers, women must be given more
authority over the family income which
they have been partly responsible for
generating, and more say in decision
making, in families, in co-operatives and at
various other levels in rural life.
The ILO's technical co-operation pro-
grammes to assist co-operatives and pro-
mote handicrafts in rural areas are helping
rural women in the Third World to improve
their lot, by providing them new job oppor-
tunities and encouraging their increased
participation in decision making at various
levels for a better rural life.
The ILO is involved in wide-ranging
studies into the problems of women and
rural employment. Some projects are
general; others are more specific. For
example, under its Rural Employment
Promotion Programme, the ongoing re-
search emphasises women's participation
in production in subsistence agriculture
economies; problems of women as wage
labourers and issues concerning rural
women's organizations. More specifically,
a project is looking at the kinds of health
services available to rural women in one
part of Tanzania. Another is analysing the
traditional and social obstacles to inte-
grating women into rural development
in Bangladesh. Yet another is examining
basic health needs under conditions of
economic change.

and 1972 (Monthly Labour Survey).

Source: Year Book of Labour Statis-
tics, (Geneva. ILO), 1973. Data not avail-
able for USSR and Eastern European

1 Women are not primary wage earners.
Women's earnings are usually considered
as a mere supplement to family income.
The extent to which women are the family
breadwinners is rarely appreciated in both
developed and developing countries. In
1972, 264,000 families in Egypt depended
upon women's earnings. The 1969 Kenyan
census showed 525,000 rural households
headed by women; 400,000 of them had
male heads of households living in towns.
In the United States, 13 per cent of all
families are headed by women.
2 Women are unreliable employees.
Women are often accused of excessive
absenteeism and a high degree of turnover.
But a number of countries have found that
there is very little difference between men
and women in this respect. For example, in
Canada in 1972, the figures show that
absenteeism due to illness was not signifi-
cantly different between the sexes. It was
found that for the same week 1.72 per cent
men and 1.95 per cent women, both full-
time workers, were absent due to illness.
3 Women are less capable than men in
scientific or technical work. Contrary to the
myth, more and more women are taking up
work in scientific or technical fields. For
example, in the USSR in 1977, among
specialists with higher qualifications,
59 per cent were women; 60 per cent of
economists and almost half of all engineers
in industry were women.
4 Women take jobs away from men.
Women and men are usually employed in
different jobs. For example, in 1974 in
Canada there was an average of 400,000
unemployed men, the vast majority of them
not in the overwhelmingfemale-dominated
professions such as nursing and teaching.
If women had stayed at home it was
estimated that there would still be 300,000
unfilled vacancies since qualified men in
these jobs would not be available.
5 Women are not qualified for many
jobs. The fact is that there is no occupation
listed in the censuses of many countries
which does not employ some women. While
the majority of the professional occupa-
tions are regarded as a special preserve of
one sex or another, the division is tradi-
tional rather than functional.

Copies of this pamphlet will be sent post-
paid and free of charge to organizations and
individuals upon written application to the
Bureau of Public Information, International
Labour Office, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzer-

Differences between men's and women's wages in
all manufacturing industries lArerage women's earnings as a perrenragf o/men's)
Conntr 1963 1972 1963-1972

Australia' 69.8 76.1 +6.3
Belgium 60.3 64.4 +4.1
Denmark 68.6 77.9 +9J
Finland 66.6 713 +4.7
Germany (Fed. Rep) 68.7 70.7 +2.0
Ireland 572 57.2 -
Japan 44.2 475 +33J
Sweden 3 72.1 832 +11.1
Switerland 62.7 64.7 +2.0
United Kingdom 57.2 593 +2.1

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