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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 98 17:42:24 CST
From: rich%pencil@UKCC.uky.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Latin American Working Women Reduce Poverty
Article: 26732

/** labr.global: 284.0 **/
** Topic: Latin Working Women Reduce Poverty **
** Written 7:54 AM Jan 29, 1998 by labornews@labornet.org in cdp:labr.global **
/* ---------- LABOUR-LATIN AMERICA: Working Women ---------- */

Working Women Help Reduce General Poverty

By Gustavo Gonzalez, IPS, 23 January 1998

SANTIAGO, Jan 23 (IPS) - Women constitute one-third of the total work force in the Latin American and Caribbean region, and just as well. Otherwise there would be 10-20 percent more poor households throughout the region, says the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

A report from the Commission this month dealt with sustainable development, poverty and gender and measures needed to be taken before the year 2000. The document is one of the basic reports of the seventh conference on the Integration of Women in Economic and Social Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Santiago last November.

The objective of that meeting was to evaluate the fulfillment of the regional goals established at the World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. Participants also analyzed a report on women's access to power and their participation in decision making.

Overcoming poverty and providing greater access to power for women are two key dimensions of establishing a democracy with gender equity, ECLAC said.

The report of the principal UN agency for Latin America and the Caribbean highlighted the progress in equity issues in the legal and political spheres that has been achieved in the region over the past few years. ECLAC noted, however, that in terms of social and economic equity, women shoulder more of the burden of the critical situation that affects the region in terms of unemployment, precarious employment and deteriorating salaries.

While 1997 represented the region's strongest economic showing in terms of growth and low inflation in the last 25 years, serious problems of income inequality and job instability continue to plague the region.

The overall unemployment rate in 1996 was the highest in a decade, while the proportion of women, especially in urban areas, who join the work force is on the rise, according to ECLAC. In 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries, 45 percent of the female population between the ages of 25 and 49 had joined the work force in 1995, the report said.

Women's salaries are still 10 to 40 percent lower than those of men. For women with technical degrees or a university education, salaries were generally about 70 percent of men's salaries.

For women with higher educational and income levels, the fertility rate is decreasing and life expectancy is increasing. They also have greater access to the job market, which offers more opportunities, especially in the service industry, the report noted. By contrast, globalization is having a negative impact on women with less qualifications who, along with men with limited educational levels, are being affected by labor restructuring and deteriorating salaries.

These economic tendencies are also affecting unemployed women, women heads of households, and young and especially rural women. The proportion of households headed by women in Latin America fluctuated between 17 and 26 percent, while it is nearly 40 percent in the Caribbean.

According to ECLAC, assuming the role of head of household is a valid option for women with higher educational levels and economic resources, but in poor regions, being the head of the household continues to be a heavy burden for women.

In 1994, working women contributed between 28 and 38 percent of the total income of their households, according to the UN agency.

There was greater segmentation among the female work force, in which poor women were concentrated in the service industry, especially as domestics, in commerce, and to a lesser degree in agroindustry. An estimated 16 percent of the female work force in the region worked in the industrial sector, with 46 percent in the textile industry and 24 percent in the production of foodstuffs, tobacco and beverages.

ECLAC also highlighted the fact that more than 30 percent of all microenterprises (units with a maximum of five workers) in Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Jamaica were run by women, who generally have low educational levels.