A new study suggests women could have to wait many years until they make up half of the global workforce.

Hopes that the current crisis will reduce the gender gap in the workforce have so far proved to be false. At the beginning of the recession, three out of four people thrown out of work in the U.S. were men and the female share of the workforce reached 50 per cent. Many heralded the coming of new times, with women squeezing men out of the job market.

“The initial impact of the crisis hit the financial, manufacturing and construction sectors hard, the domain of predominantly male workers in developed economies. It was men in these sectors that experienced the first job cuts,” says Sara Elder of ILO’s Employment Trends Unit, the main author of Women in Labour Markets 2010 report.

“But the impact of the crisis has since expanded to other sectors around the world, including service sectors where women are mainly employed and job losses in these sectors are now occurring as well.”

Although there are 2.5 billion women and 2.5 billion men worldwide who are of working age, only 1.2 billion women are employed as opposed to 1.8 billion men, and 48 per cent of women are economically inactive.

But as recovery begins, the gender gap may even grow bigger. “I think the real effects of the crisis will be visible during the recovery. It takes longer for women to get jobs back, as men have more sectors to return to,” explains Elder. Many women may be left with part-time work and more flexible, less secure jobs.

Split in jobs

Unemployment worldwide

• In 2007:
5.5% — MEN
6.3% — WOMEN

• In 2009:
6% — MEN
7% — WOMEN

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