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Choosing work or family or both. Does gender matter?

The massive and irreversible inclusion of Latin American and Caribbean women in the workforce has highlighted the challenges of the traditional interplay between work and family life. Relieving these tensions is an essential step towards gender equality and more productive economies, says a joint report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The publication , presented in Geneva last June, seeks to address one of the greatest challenges of our time: reconciliation between work and family, which is fundamental for equality in the world of work and for reducing poverty.

According to the ILO-UNDP report, 53 per cent of women in Latin America and the Caribbean are part of the workforce, a rate that rises to 70 per cent for women between 20 and 40 years old. This has significantly improved those countries' ability to generate wealth, enhance the wellbeing of households and reduce poverty.

"Today, women and men work, but there has been no change in distribution of domestic workload. Nor have public services that support such duties been improved significantly - and there has been little change towards reorganization of social life", states the report.   The strains between family life and work affect performance, commitment and stability in the workplace, slow down progress toward gender equality and adversely affect the quality of life of individuals and their environment.

The report states that the inclusion of women in the workplace has unveiled rigid gender roles, the undervaluing of domestic work and the overall perception that caring for the home and family should be carried out by women. "Wage discrimination is one of the consequences of sexual division of labour. As a result, in Latin America, women's wages on average amount to only 70 per cent of men's income", according to the report.

The objective of the report is to identify ways to balance family life and work with collective social responsibility - redistributing care responsibilities between men and women, and also among the family, the State, the market and society as a whole.  A number of public strategies - legal, political or administrative - that should be pursued by States, companies, trades unions, individuals and social bodies are therefore suggested.

The Turin Centre has been active in this field for many years.  It provides training for the public sector which focuses on removing obstacles to women's advancement, training in international labour standards (ILS), which helps to redress inequalities between women and men at work and provide guidelines on rights of women workers, non-discrimination and workers with family responsibilities.

It also provides training in gender issues for public employment services, which play a central role in implementing gender equality policies. This gives front-line workers from employment offices guidance on the early detection of gender discrimination, including sexual harassment, and in promoting equal access to work, training and career advancement.

For more information, visit this site: http://www.itcilo.org/en/expertise-services/gender-equality-mainstreaming, and consult our online calendar: http://www.itcilo.org/en/calendar.

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