- The publication performs a diagnosis of gender gaps in Central America, Mexico, Panama, and the Dominican Republic and makes recommendations on how to boost female participation at the workplace and increase women’s incomes.
The rates of women participation in the workplace in Central America, Panama, and the Dominican Republic have been rising over the past 20 years. However, they remain below the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) average. This is one of the findings of the new Inter-American Development Bank publication titled Closing the Gender Gaps in the World of Work – Central America, Mexico, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. The study reflects the commitment of the IDB and its Vision 2025 to apply a gender perspective to Bank initiatives and spearhead efforts to guarantee access to financial opportunities for all.
The report shows that women have to put up with more work informality and lower wages, are assigned fewer working hours, and have less access to managerial or leading political positions than their male counterparts.
“We are aware at the IDB that without women’s participation in the workplace there can be no sustainable development in the region,” IDB President Mauricio Claver-Carone said. “The gender gaps in Latin America and the Caribbean are multidimensional and so must be the policies and solutions that we promote to ensure the growth of employment, and particularly of female employment.”
A key aspect underscored by the publication is that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the female employment situation in the fields of healthcare, education, business and services. A large proportion of women work in the informal economy and are therefore excluded from social protection schemes against unemployment. In addition, the closure of daycare centers and schools, coupled with social confinement, have added to the unpaid workload and pushed up domestic violence rates.
Women’s lag in workplace participation in the region is apparent throughout their whole life cycle and is due to a multiplicity of factors. It begins in their early years of human capital accumulation, it continues during the stage of making decisions about forming a family, and is also present in institutional and sociocultural contexts.
During women’s human capital accumulation period, two key factors behind this situation are their low representation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers, and teen pregnancy. Their higher participation in schooling has partly closed the gender gaps in education and also reduced them at the workplace. However, there are still fewer women than men enrolling in STEM disciplines or pursuing a master’s or Ph.D. degree, which constrains their ability to earn higher wages.
The report also shows that many women drop school at an early age, in many cases due to teen pregnancy, thereby reinforcing the poverty cycle. Several Central American countries have the highest teen pregnancy rates in Latin America. An education network reaching out to the most destitute areas that includes a gender focus in its curricula and promotes better teaching would go a long way to mitigate the problem.
With regard to family life, marital life –particularly at a young age– and maternity, as well as the division of unpaid housework, are reducing women’s labor supply in the region.
The countries institutional contexts and cultural stereotypes also play a key role in women’s access to the labor market. Labor laws promoting equality between men and women and fiscal policies with a gender focus that favor social protection spending can have a positive impact.
The IDB has been taking steps to close the gender gaps across women’s life cycles. This is reflected in the fact that 38 percent of its operations in the region have implemented gender-focus moves and that integrated interventions such as Women’s City have been applied.
Fostering women’s incorporation into the labor market requires steps throughout a person’s lifetime in areas such as formal education, starting a family, and entering the labor market, as well as moves to promote a more supporting atmosphere by way of more equitable laws and fewer gender stereotypes.
These are some of the conclusions of the report on gender gaps affecting women in the region and their ability to join the workforce. It is also an invitation to reflect on what measures can be taken to help bridge those gaps and promote development in LAC countries.
Download the publication by clicking here “Closing the gender gaps in the world of work. Central America, Mexico, Panama, and the Dominican Republic”. (Available only in Spanish.)
About the IDB
The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.
Economics principal advisor. Country Department Central America, Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic.
Economics lead specialist. Country Department Central America, Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic.