Women’s Workforce Participation Reaches Historic Milestone
Despite being disproportionately sidelined from the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s workforce participation peaked in 2022, according to data from the National Occupation and Employment Survey (ENOE). Nevertheless, data suggests that suboptimal working conditions are still stifling women’s potential representation, highlighting the importance of legislative support.
Last year, a greater number of women were able to break into the workforce, sustaining an approximate national participation rate of 45% throughout 2022. Following the height of Mexico’s economic recovery in the 3Q22, increased employment opportunities allowed economically available women to constitute 46.7% of the national workforce. It marks the greatest female workforce participation since data collection began in 2005, remarked the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO).
Although the economy began to lose traction in December, leading to a dip in women's workforce participation back down to 40%, it did not affect women-held jobs initially lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this is a progressive indicator, working women still face significant social and workplace inequalities, including a greater share of homemaking responsibilities, a gender-based wage gap, underemployment, career stagnation and workplace harassment. Meanwhile, economically available women still face significant barriers to enter the workforce, which left an estimated 13% of economically available women above the age of 15 without a job.
Despite these known disparities, the federal government has been slow to address women’s barriers to employment and career advancement. This failure to address gender disparities is exemplified by a stalled 2021 reform package, which aimed to ensure pay equity between men and women by requiring employers to identify and report any instances of unfair compensation differences to the authorities. On another front, legislators have repeatedly failed to develop incentives to reduce the prevalence of informal labor, a segment in which most women participate. What is more, the 2019 federal termination of the national subsidized childcare program further handicapped women's ability to rejoin the workforce.
Altogether, while the increased participation of women in Mexico in 2022 marks a historic achievement, data also reveals an ongoing presence of institutional barriers to women's employment and career advancement. Their historic entrenchment requires concerted legislative and private efforts to address these disparities, at the risk of further hindering women's economic empowerment.