Women’s Absence from the Workforce, A Continuing TrendBy Cinthya Alaniz Salazar | Wed, 07/07/2021 - 14:11
Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) reports a continued regression of female participation in the country’s workforce. The institute’s latest employment survey indicated that this year 24 million women are “not economically active or available,” an increase of 11 percent from 2020, due to homemaking, studies, physical disability, retired or pensioned.
Although social conventions have pushed women towards homemaking roles and out of the labor force, this trend became particularly salient during the pandemic as children stayed home from school and family members fell ill. The notion, however, that women do not contribute to the economy is erroneous. Just four years prior, INEGI reported that unpaid housework accounted for about 23 percent of Mexico’s total GDP, an economic value of MX$5.1 billion.
“According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) the rate of female labor force participation in Mexico is 43 percent… among the lowest of many emerging economies” says McKinsey & Company in a report published in 2018. The continuation of this trend is due in large part to a lack of incentives and social support.
Women are not incentivized to pursue a higher education when 75 percent of female college graduates do not have a paid formal job, this according to the McKinsey report. The continued lack of representation in the workforce can help explain the continued presence of biases towards women, which has been used historically and globally to justify paying women less. According to Statista, Mexico scored 0.5 in wage equity for similar work, indicating that women on average are paid less than 50 percent than their male counterparts. This puts Mexico among the top five countries in Latin America in gender pay gap discrepancy.
To make matters worse, in 2019 the government opted to end its successful subsidized child care program that served 2 million children since 2007 due to austerity measures, ending an instrumental lifeline that helped to keep working women in the workforce. According to a report by Coneval, a National Evaluation Council for Social Development Policy, the program salvaged parents an average of 34 hours of childcare duties a week; and increased women’s probability of workforce integration by 18 percent.
Looking towards the future, its clear that the government intervention is needed for women to make meaningful gains in the labor sector, which in turn would add 70 percent, about US$800 billion to the country’s GDP. However, President Andres Manuel López Obrador’s administration has not introduced initiatives to reinvigorate women’s participation in the workforce.