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Report from UN Women claims poor policies and discriminatory attitudes are failing women worldwide and calls for rethink of global economic policy
Monday 27 April 2015 13.04 BST
Women earn on average 24% less than men, work more hours and have less chance of receiving a pension in later life, according to UN Women’s flagship report, which calls for an overhaul of global economic policies to improve women’s lives.
The 2015 progress report, Transforming economies, realising rights, published on Monday, said current economic policies and discriminatory laws and attitudes are failing women in rich and poor countries.
Despite significant progress in overcoming the barriers to equal opportunities, which includes new legislation to support women’s right to work, change has not penetrated deep enough in some countries.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN Women, said it was “staggering that where we are doing the right thing is more the exception than the rule”.
The report, published as the UN debates the next set of sustainable development goals, found that only half of women over the age of 15 are in the labour force, compared with three-quarters of men considered to be of working age. In poorer countries, 75% of women are employed in informal sector jobs, such as domestic workers, positions not covered by international employment laws and which leave them open to abuse and exploitation.
Some 77 countries still restrict the type of work women can undertake, with bans on night-time work – as was the case until recently in Bolivia – or construction jobs.
At least 80 countries, including France, Germany, Switzerland, Mexico and South Africa, do not have legislation requiring equal pay for equal work. Over their lifetimes, women in France and Sweden can expect to earn 31% less than men, in Germany 49% less and in Turkey 75% less.
On top of the wage gap in paid work, women on average do almost two-and-a-half times more unpaid care and household work as men. Combining paid and unpaid work, researchers calculated that women in almost all countries work longer hours each day than men.
The report, which drew on existing international data, national figures and policies, as well as on-the-ground interviews, said that while the economic crisis in 2008 had affected the lives of women and men, the resulting cuts in public spending had disproportionately affected women. Austerity measures had “shifted the burden of coping and caring into the household and on to the shoulders of women and girls”.
Although the gender pay gap had narrowed slightly since the crash, this had not translated into a more equal employment landscape. In some countries, the reduced wage gap was due to men’s wages falling more than women’s, which “can hardly be considered progress. Instead of catching up with men, there is a levelling down for all,” it said.
The report, the first UN Women progress report since 2011, also found that sexual harassment in the workplace is still a reality for thousands of women. At least 34 countries do not have legislation banning sexual harassment at work and those that do aren’t doing enough to fully implement them. In the EU, 75% of women who hold managerial or more senior professional positions say they have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace, the report found.
Almost all countries now offer paid maternity leave, although only 63 complied with the International Labour Organisation’s recommendations of a minimum of 14 weeks of leave paid at a rate of at least two-thirds of earnings by governments and employers.
Later in life, women are more likely to live in poverty as they are less likely to contribute to a pension than men. Given the nature of women’s work, they don’t always have spare money to contribute towards a pension scheme if one is available.
The report called on governments to tighten laws to protect women in the workplace. Well-designed and funded social services – such as affordable health and childcare, and improved access to water and sanitation – are needed to improve poverty levels and free up women’s time.
A shift in attitude is required to challenge the traditional role of women as the chief carers of children, argued the report. Social protection measures, such as cash-transfer schemes that have proved successful in parts of Asia and Latin America in alleviating poverty, are also needed.
Mlambo-Ngcuka said that it was not just about finding new money, but also about using existing funds to better support women through paying a minimum wage or investing in affordable, decent childcare. More women in decision-making roles are also required, she said.
“Our public resources are not flowing in the directions where they are most needed, for example, to provide safe water and sanitation, quality healthcare and decent child and elderly care services. Where there are no public services, the deficit is borne by women and girls.”
Barbara Lotti, a programme officer at the women’s fund Mama Cash, said: “The report stresses consistently that social norms are responsible for women’s socio-economic disadvantage in the labour market. Even in countries where formal equality in the form of laws exists, the type of work women perform is undervalued as compared to the jobs that men do, resulting in a gender pay gap.
“It is a big gain to understand the stereotyping of women and the stigma they experience as a crucial factor in women’s access to decent employment. Now more than ever is the time to equip women workers in formal and informal sectors with resources to do their norm-transforming work and thus get at the root causes of the inequality they face.”
Women at work in a village near Udaipur, Rajasthan (India). Photograph: Marco Palladino/Alamy
Tencent and Baidu are only non-US digital media companies in top 10 by revenue, but country has four of top 10 fastest-growing firms, report says
Monday 8 December 2014 14.00 GMT
China is eroding Silicon Valley’s pre-eminent position as the home of the world’s largest internet businesses, with two companies making the top 10 by digital media revenue and four among the fastest-growing, according to new research.
Chinese internet giants Tencent and Baidu were the only non-US headquartered companies to make the top 10 list of the world’s biggest firms as measured by digital media revenues in a survey published on Monday by research and advisory firm Strategy Analytics.
Chinese companies also make up four of the top 10 fastest growing of the 44 firms that are monitored for the survey.
Google’s global ubiquity ensures the search giant leads the list by a huge margin, making an estimated $31.4bn (£20bn) in online revenues in the first half of the year, according to the Strategy Analytics report.
The next biggest company, Amazon, made less than a third than Google, with digital media revenues of $10.3bn in the first six months.
Tencent, which runs social networks, ISPs and online gaming portals in China, overtook Apple’s iTunes ($5.2bn) to rank fourth with $5.4bn in digital media revenues. The Chinese company’s 43% rise in year-on-year revenues put it within touching distance of third-ranked Facebook, which also pulled in $5.4bn.
Search engine Baidu moved past Yahoo – the only one of the world’s top 10 to see a revenue decline year-on-year (eighth, $2.2bn) – to take sixth spot with $3.4bn.
The remainder of the Top 10 is made up of Netflix (seventh, $2.6bn), Yahoo Japan (ninth, $2bn) and Microsoft Online Services (10th, $1.9bn).
“A red-hot Chinese internet market is challenging the historical dominance of US companies,” said Michael Goodman, director of digital media for Strategy Analytics. “The big question, and the key threat to US global dominance, is whether they can translate this success outside China.”
Chinese internet security software firm Qihoo was the fastest grower, with revenues up 123% in the first half to $582m.
Twitter was second, up 122% to $562m, with Facebook third up 66% to $5.4bn.
Chinese firms also managed to take fourth (Baidu up 56% to $3.4bn); seventh (Tencent up 43% to $5.4bn); and 10th (online media company Sina, up 36%)
US companies dominate the rest of the top 10 with music service Pandora fifth, games maker Blizzard Entertainment sixth, Disney eighth and LinkedIn ninth.
“The fact that there are about 2.5 times more Chinese than Americans online is a big factor so they’ve been able to hit such heights solely in a domestic market,” said Goodman. “The Chinese companies have been particularly adept at generating revenues across a variety of sources.”
Robin Li, founder and chief executive of Chinese search engine Baidu. Photograph: JASON LEE/REUTERS
The UK falls eight places in rankings measuring gender equality worldwide, with Nordic countries such as Iceland and Sweden continuing to come out on top
George Arnett theguardian.com, Tuesday 28 October 2014 07.49 GMT
It will take 81 years for the worldwide gender gap to close if progress continues at the current rate, according to the latest report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Women currently have 60% of the standing of men worldwide - just four percentage points up on 2006 when WEF started the report measuring female economic participation, education, health and political involvement.
A gender gap is not necessarily a measurement of women’s quality of life in general, for example issues like abortion are likely to be excluded, it is about measuring the gap in various sectors of society between men and women.
Not one country has closed its overall gender gap since 2006 but all five of the Nordic countries have closed more than 80% of it and they now sit at the top of the rankings. Iceland (1), Finland (2), Norway (3) and Sweden (4) are now followed by Denmark which rose three places to fifth this year.
Nicaragua went up by four places to sixth, while Rwanda came into the rankings for the first time at seventh. Ten countries from Latin America made the top 50, although there were significant declines for both Brazil and Mexico, and sub-Saharan Africa registered three in the top 20.
In terms of the metrics the global gender gap is at its least severe in health and survival (96%) followed by educational attainment (94%). The gap for political empowerment is the worst of any of the metrics at 21% - meaning that women are represented in about two out of 10 political positions - although, at the same time, the WEF says this is the area in which the world has shown the most improvement since 2006.
The UK has dropped out of the top twenty most gender equal societies to 26th - down six places on last year’s report. Although the country has the third highest length of maternity leave at 273 calendar days, it comes 48th for labour force participation and 66th for estimated earned income. It has also fallen behind others in educational attainment (32) and, health and survival (94).
To see the full rankings visualised and to read the report in full, click on the map below ( check link for all charts).
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