Labor gender gap in Mexico, stagnant and one of the highest in the region

The women’s labor participation in Mexico it has clearly stalled, says a report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Maintaining gender roles and discrimination continues to exclude them from a job or perpetuate them in poor quality jobs, without social security and without the option of retirement. The income of Mexican women workers is barely 60% of that of men.

The IDB reports on the foregoing in the report Closing gender gaps in the world of work: Central America, Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic. The research focuses on this region, called Mecapard, which “presents wide gender gaps that exceed those of the average for Latin America and the Caribbean.”

In this country, the 95% of female workers employed in low-productivity sectors are not affiliated with any pension system, according to the report. We share the fourth place of the highest rates in the area with Guatemala. First is Nicaragua (99%), followed by the Dominican Republic (97%) and then Honduras (98%).

Since the 1990s, the Mecapard had shown that it was breaking down the barriers that prevented women from having a job. In Mexico, we go from a rate of labor participation from 38% in that decade to about 56% in 2020, but we have not advanced further.

“In recent years, progress to close gender gaps in the labor market has lost momentum” and there is a great risk that they will be reversed due to the pandemic. The jobs most affected by the health crisis were mostly held by women. In addition, they are more susceptible to automation and digitization.

In the Mecapard area, the 62% of women of working age has a paid job. The rate for Latin America and the Caribbean is 67% and that of the countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has reached 74 percent.

Care work, stable and unpaid employment

The study indicates that throughout their lives, for different reasons, but always due to care work, women are left out of jobs. The IDB segmented this population into three age groups to analyze their particularities.

The first was 15 to 24 years old. In this age range, “labor participation should be more even between genders”, since the time they dedicate to their education “competes in the same way with the time they dedicate to work”. But it is not like that, the 34% of young women in the Mecapard and 62% of the men have a job.

Another difference in this group is that young people who stop studying do so to work and generate income; they, “to engage in domestic work, marriage or pregnancy.” It is not surprising that in Mexico 80% of people under 29 years of age who do not study and do not have a job are women.

In the group of between 24 and 54 years there are more women and men working, mainly more men. At this stage, decisions are made such as forming a family and here time for paid work competes with unpaid domestic work.

The result is that in a heterosexual couple the man is more likely to continue working and she does not. 54.5% of women with a partner are employed against 76% of single women.

At age group 55 to 64 years, Mecapard women stop working “and the gender gap widens again” to 40 percentage points. In this period, in addition to the fact that they continue to take care of household chores, “job placement opportunities are reduced for women.”

How does the level of studies influence?

Women with less schooling they participate less in the world of paid work, especially in Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. However, for those with a high educational level, “no relevant changes have been registered either.” It is those with an intermediate educational level who are getting hired.

But taking a closer look at each of these three groups reveals gender-based disadvantages. The women’s segment With a lower educational level, they work much more in commerce and household services, which tend to be informal and are susceptible to a crisis, as the pandemic demonstrated.

Women who have a higher or higher secondary level of education find work mainly in skilled service or care sectors, such as education, health and public administration.

And those who have become more professional and have studied are faced with the glass ceiling. In Mexico, only one third of managerial or executive positions are held by women. In Nicaragua and El Salvador, the rate reaches about 55% for executive positions.

In the entire Mecapard region, Mexico is the country where there are fewer people working in women-run businesses, since only 2.5% work under the female guideline. Belize is the country with the highest percentage of the population employed in companies run by women, but it is barely 21 percent.

IDB Proposals

Governments must invest in human capital represented by women, the study says. To do this, they must “redirect public spending towards education in the areas with the greatest socio-economic backwardness.”

He also advises “expanding and improving conditional cash transfers in order to alleviate the economic restrictions of families and encourage investment in the human capital of their children ”.

In Mexico there are the Youth Building the Future and Youth Writing the Future programs, aimed at this population. In addition to other self-employment, such as Sembrando vida, which also covers adults.

“This type of program has been proven to be effective in improving attendance and enrollment rates for young people in Latin America and the Caribbean, and particularly in some Mecapard countries.”

However, all these and other strategies must have a gender orientation. For example, “introduce programs and measures that promote greater participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics from an early age”.

Increasing the coverage and quality of childcare and preschool education services will also increase female labor force participation, the IDB argues. The labor flexibility It is another necessary policy. Also, support for women to return to work after becoming mothers, such as breaks in the day for breastfeeding.

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