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The World of Work

women at desks


A woman's work… The old saying of 'a woman's work is never done' is true of women around the world. After all, women are responsible for producing at least half the world's food supply, and when they've finished this they go home to cook, clean and feed their own families.

In many parts of the world, women face discrimination in terms of pay, working conditions and promotion opportunities.

Far fewer women than men belong to unions, which give at least some protection against exploitation, and of course most women remain unpaid for the majority of the work they do.


Government control Sometimes women also face the loss of their livelihoods as governments change the laws affecting their right to work.

Most people have heard about the crippling restrictions which faced women in Afghanistan under the Taleban. In Sudan, in many ways a progressive country in regard to women, decrees were passed by the governor of Khartoum forbidding women to work as petrol attendants or in jobs in hotels and cafeterias.

One result has been to unite women in protest to challenge this decree and others relating to 'public order', which includes women's clothing in public.


Wage discrimination Whilst many countries now have legislation which guarantees women equal pay for men and women, there are wide regional differences.

For example, women in Japan and the Republic of Korea take home less than half the wages earned by men. Many women feel there is a ‘glass ceiling’ to promotions, beyond which it is impossible to progress, until a change in attitudes take place.

In many cases such as working as tailors at home, seasonal agricultural workers and domestic workers, women are not even included in official wage statistics, which makes it much harder to tackle these inequalities.

women construction workers

Doing it for themselves… Elsewhere in the world, women are proving that they are successful entrepreneurs. For example, in Bangladesh many women have made use of the Grameen Bank’s micro-credit schemes to develop small-scale businesses.

In many parts of the world, women belong to women-only co-operatives which allow them to pool resources such as the Corn Mill societies in Cameroon, and the General Union of Co-operatives in Mozambique, which supplies most of Maputo's fruits and vegetables.

Women have demonstrated that they can head governments and fight in armies, but many still face difficulties gaining access to the Human Right of education.