The ghettoization of female labour is a phenomenon which crosses all cultural boundaries, and professions, affecting women in virtually all countries. Internationally, women are most often concentrated in “feminized” professions, such as nursing and teaching, office work, care of the elderly and disabled—termed “horizontal occupational segregation”—where they tend to remain in lower job categories than men. Typically, because these functions are carried out by women, they are the lowest paid, in addition to offering limited or no opportunity for advancement. The term “feminization of
poverty” is often used to illustrate the fact that the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on US$1 a day or less are women and that the gap between women and men caught in the cycle of poverty has not lessened, but may well have widened in the past
Despite worldwide evidence of the low levels of female participation in social, educational, economic and political spheres, there is still a tendency to see it as a real problem only in a limited number of countries. Yet, as noted above, the reality is that no country in the world, no matter how advanced, has achieved true gender equality, as measured by comparable decision making power, equal opportunity for education and advancement, and equal participation and status in all walks of human endeavor. Gender disparities exist, even in countries without glaring male-domination, and measuring these disparities is a necessary step towards implementing corrective policies.
Even in light of heightened international awareness of gender issues, it is a disturbing reality that no country has yet managed to eliminate the gender gap. Those that have succeeded best in narrowing the gap are the Nordic countries, with Sweden standing out as the most advanced in the world. These are followed by New Zealand (6), Canada (7), United Kingdom (8), Germany (9) and Australia (10), countries that have made considerable progress in recent decades in removing obstacles to the full participation of women in their respective societies. France (13) ranked ahead of the United States (17) among the 58 nations.
Despite the intense efforts of many agencies and organizations, and numerous inspiring successes, the picture is still disheartening, as it takes far more than changes in law or stated policy to change practices in the home,community and in the decision-making environment. In many parts of the world rape is not considered a crime, goes unpunished and continues to be used as a tool of war. Even in highly developed countries, violence
against women of all kinds is routine, and often condoned A pregnant woman in Africa is 180 times more likely to die of pregnancy complications than in western Europe. Women, mostly in rural areas, represent more than two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults. In the United States, 90% of AIDS cases under 20 years of age are girls.
In many developed countries, where basic gender equality appears to have been achieved, the battlefront has shifted to removing the more intangible discrimination against working women. Women still hold only 15.6% of elected parliamentary seats globally.