Social Issues

LatAm women being held back by lower pay, disproportionate childcare duties

By Sara Zuluaga Garcia

Americas Desk, Mar 7 (EFE).- On the eve of International Women’s Day 2023, a gender salary gap that ranges from 15-30 percent and disproportionate childcare responsibilities are among the key barriers to Latin American women’s economic empowerment.

Years of data compiled by different organizations reveal wide disparities between the career growth and monetary success of women relative to their male counterparts – differences that stem primarily from stereotypes and the social pressure to adhere to traditional “feminine” roles.

The average monthly salary of men is between 20 percent and 30 percent higher than that of women in Argentina, Florencia Caro Sachetti, the senior coordinator of the Social Protection Program at Cippec, a Buenos Aires-based NGO, told Efe.

She said 15 percent of female workers in that country have jobs in domestic service, the sector of the economy where pay is the lowest and the rate of informality is 78 percent.

In Bolivia, the gender gap is attributable in part to the physical and psychological abuse of women, said Tania Sanchez, director of the Women’s Coordinator, a network of roughly a score of private non-profit institutions that work to promote gender equality.

She said economic violence (in which economic hardship and deprivation are employed as a means of control) in that Andean nation is rarely talked about and that available statistics are limited.

The salary gap in Bolivia has narrowed in recent years and now stands at between 26-27 percent, according to figures from the National Statistics Institute. By comparison, women in Mexico were estimated to have earned 14 percent less than men in 2022, the Mexican Competitiveness Institute said.

In Brazil, the most recent figures from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics indicate that in 2019 women were paid on average just 77.7 percent of what men received for the same work.

Among the main factors driving the pay gap, experts point to the so-called “motherhood penalty” and a lack of public policies to facilitate women’s entry into the labor market.

According to Unesco, Mexican woman perform some 73 percent of housework and unpaid care duties, while men’s share is just 27 percent. Additionally, 92 percent of unremunerated caregivers in that country are women, according to figures from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.

Gender roles grounded in stereotypes lie behind the data: in Argentina, women work only 7.5 hours per day and spend 6.5 hours caring for the home, or nearly double the amount of time men spend on housework, a reality that impedes women’s ability to ascend the career ladder.

The law also reflects the different expectations, with male employees in that country entitled to just two days of paternity leave and women receiving 90 days of maternity leave.

In Colombia, the latest figures from the National Administrative Department of Statistics indicated that women in 2020 earned only 6 percent less money than men for the same work.

But Paula Herrera, an economics professor at Bogota’s Pontificia Universidad Javeriana said those statistics are misleading because they do not take into account workers in the informal sector, where women make up a disproportionate percentage of the total and were particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

In El Salvador, even though a recent study revealed that a larger percentage of women (75.02 percent) than men (70.19 percent) are of working age, only 45.4 percent of women are among the “economically active population,” compared to 76.8 percent in the case of men.

In Colombia, 17.4 percent of women are unemployed, compared to 11 percent of men. In addition, 10 million women are out of the workforce, 45 percent of whom are not looking for work due to their family responsibilities.

The problem is urgent “in a context in which economic dependence and insufficient income are factors … that explain why women remain in violent environments,” said Maria del Pilar Lopez, a historian, economist and professor at Colombia’s Universidad de los Andes. EFE


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