World's women 2000 - Main findings and future directions
In the Beijing Declaration adopted by the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, participating Governments "determined to advance the goals of equality, development and peace for all women everywhere in the interest of all humanity". The twenty-first century opens with this question: "Are these goals for women being met?" Some assert that progress for women is occurring rapidly, proclaiming that new technologies and globalization will benefit women and men equally. Others point out how, in some countries, the hard-won gains for women have been suddenly lost during dramatic economic and political transitions. Still others argue that while progress has been made, real change in the quality of women's lives-the achievement of social, economic and political equality and basic human rights-will take years to accomplish. During the last decade, international conferences have sought to reshape a vision of women's lives. In Vienna, in 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights asserted that women's rights are human rights. In Cairo, in 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) built on this assertion and placed women's rights, empowerment and health, including reproductive health, at the centre of population and sustainable development policies and programmes. At the Beijing Conference, the world's Governments reached a consensus on a Platform for Action that "seeks to promote and protect the full enjoyment of all human rights and the fundamental freedoms of all women throughout their life cycle".
In the last seven years, Governments, institutions and non-governmental organizations have worked at every level to implement and incorporate the agendas of these conferences into national programmes for action. The success-or lack of success-of these efforts is the subject of The World's Women 2000: Trends and Statistics. The publication is also a response to a 1998 request to the Secretary-General from the United Nations General Assembly to provide a compilation of updated statistics and indicators on the situation of women and girls in countries around the world.
The World's Women 2000 is the third in a series of reports (the other two issued in 1991 and 1995) that look at the status of women through the lens of statistical data and analysis. The information and data in the present publication are intended to provide a "snapshot" of some of the more salient statistical findings since 1995, while also drawing out recent changes and long-term trends. As in the past two editions of The World's Women, the present edition compiles and analyses the data that are available from countries in the United Nations statistical system. While these data are essential for a comprehensive view, they do have a problem of timeliness. Data based on censuses are generally collected in a 10-year cycle and household surveys are often not collected on a regular basis. Furthermore, once these data are collected, tabulation and delivery to the international statistical services can take years, particularly in the developing regions where there are scant resources for statistical activities. As a result, analysts must rely on data that are often not current in preparing and producing reports, thus limiting assessment of the most recent trends.
In six chapters, The World's Women 2000 focuses on the status of women in six specific fields of concern: population, women and men in families, health, education and communication, work, and human rights and politics. Measuring women's progress in these and other areas is a new and evolving discipline-one that depends on the availability of basic demographic, social and economic data. It also depends on the ability of countries to meet the challenges of the increasing demand for data, following on the recommendations of the global conferences.
Even basic statistical series on women and men, such as literacy, health and causes of death, family status and economic activity, including income inequality, are not collected and tabulated routinely in many countries. Vital statistics registration systems, which compile data on births, deaths, marriages, divorces etc., do not exist in many countries of developing regions. Where data, including vital statistics, are collected and tabulated, countries often use different indicators or definitions of indicators, making cross-country analysis difficult and sometimes unreliable. In other areas, experience is limited on how data are to be collected and only a few countries have collected data on topics such as violence against women, time-use and school drop-outs.
The topics within each field of concern in The World's Women 2000 were shaped both by the availability of data and by the calls for action emerging from the global conferences. For example, the global conferences made certain life-stage categories-e.g., the girl and boy child, adolescent girls and boys, women and men in the reproductive years, and older women and men-central in setting priorities in policies and programmes. Reflecting these new priorities, emphasis has been placed in The World's Women 2000 on specific age groups, especially in the chapters on population, women and men in families, health, and work.
Following on ICPD and its five-year review and the Beijing Conference, The World's Women 2000 looks at statistical studies that take into account the rights and responsibilities of women and men to determine the size of their families, to have access to contraceptive services and products, and to have access to adequate maternal care.
Following up on the Beijing Platform for Action, the present publication takes a more comprehensive approach to work than earlier editions. In addition to data on paid employment, the chapter on work provides data on the informal sector, unpaid work in family enterprises and unpaid housework, as well as on economic activity in the formal sector. It also describes new efforts directed toward measurement of the overall contributions of women and men to national and regional economies.
Responding to calls from recent world conferences, The World's Women 2000 also provides, in its chapter on human rights and political decision-making, new data on violence against women-including sexual violence, female genital mutilation and trafficking in women.
While each chapter in the present publication provides new findings in each of the subject areas, as well as up-to-date country and regional analysis of both new and earlier data, a number of cross-cutting themes emerge that point to changes-some positive, some negative-occurring in women's lives at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
The Framework for Action to implement the 1990 World Declaration on Education for All, the ICPD Programme of Action and the Beijing Platform for Action all place priority on the education of women as a human right. Women's equal access to education is seen as key to improving the health, nutrition and education of the family as a whole, as well as to empowering women to participate more fully in the development process. Among the targets set for Governments by the Beijing Platform for Action were: to close the gender gap in primary and secondary school education by the year 2005; to reduce the female illiteracy rate by, for example, providing universal access to the completion of primary education for girls by the year 2000; and to eliminate gender disparities in access to all areas of higher education.
The gender gap in enrolment in primary and secondary levels of schooling is closing. Enrolment has improved more for girls than for boys in regions where girls' enrolment was significantly lower than boys'-in Northern Africa, sub-Saharan Africa (excluding Southern Africa), Southern Asia and Western Asia. In South America and the Caribbean, enrolment ratios for girls and boys, which were at the same level in the past, improved more for girls than for boys, resulting in a gender gap now in favour of girls. In Eastern Asia, with slightly improved enrolment ratios for girls and declining ratios for boys, there are now more girls than boys enrolled. In Southern Africa, the gender gap in favour of girls in the past still exists but has narrowed because of a much larger improvement in boys' enrolment.
However, it is unlikely that the gender gap in education will be fully closed by the target date of 2005. In 22 countries of Africa and nine countries of Asia, the gap is still wide, with data showing enrolment ratios for girls less than 80 per cent that of boys. Furthermore, girls' access to and completion of primary and secondary education are still limited, particularly in rural areas, and girls are more likely than boys to drop out of school (except in the developed regions and in Latin America and the Caribbean).
Nearly two thirds of the illiterates in the world are women. Improvements in school enrolment over the years have resulted in generally higher literacy rates among younger adults but a large gender gap in favour of men continues to disadvantage women. The populations for which the gender gaps in enrolment and literacy are the widest-Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa-are also among the fastest growing. This suggests that there will continue to be enormous numbers of illiterate women in the world-many more than men. In fact, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) projects no decline in the gap in literacy between women and men over age 15 for the year 2025.
In higher education, women have made significant gains in enrolment in most regions of the world. Recently, for example, women's enrolment in higher education surpassed that of men in the Caribbean and Western Asia and is now equal to that of men in South America-although in all of these subregions, enrolment levels are still below 20 per 1,000 for women and for men. Enrolment ratios are higher for women than for men in many countries of Europe and in the United States and New Zealand. Enrolment in third-level education is the highest in the world in Australia, Canada and the United States. The lowest ratios of third-level education enrolments are found in many countries of sub-Saharan Africa-4 third-level students per 1,000 men and 2 or less per 1,000 women.
International conferences over the last decade have recognized women's right to quality reproductive health and reproductive services as an intrinsic component of their basic right to health and well-being. The ICPD Programme of Action, in particular, urged Governments to use their primary health-care systems to make reproductive health services available to all individuals throughout their reproductive years by 2015. Women's overall health, and especially their reproductive health, was recognized as being linked to their educational, economic and social status.
The Beijing Platform for Action considers that early marriage and early motherhood can severely curtail educational and employment opportunities for women and are likely to have a long-term adverse effects on their and their children's quality of life. Therefore, recent declines in early marriage and early childbearing in most regions of the world imply a significant change in the quality of women's lives. There are, however, exceptions to this overall pattern-for example, in 3 of 5 countries in Southern Asia and 11 of 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa for which recent data are available, at least 30 per cent of young women aged 15 to 19 have been married.
Births to young women have also declined in some regions-for example, in Eastern Asia, Northern Africa and Western Europe, average birth rates declined by 50 per cent over the last two decades. However, fertility rates for young women have decreased only slightly or have stayed the same in Southern Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the developed regions outside Europe.
The framework of the ICPD Programme of Action asserts the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so. Monitoring childbearing under this broader concept of reproductive rights-in terms of desired family size, unmet need for contraception and the provision of maternal care-is now incorporated into the data-collection systems of many countries. The number of children desired (as expressed by women) has declined significantly in developing regions. The largest absolute decline is in some countries of sub-Saharan Africa, where women want, on average, two fewer children today than in the 1980s.
Whether women and men achieve their desired family size often depends on whether the demand for contraceptives is met. Unmet need for contraception is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 30 per cent of women surveyed between 1988 and 1997, who either did not want another child or wanted to delay their next birth, had not been using contraception. In Asia and Northern Africa, unmet need was relatively low.
Contraceptive use has increased in most developing regions since 1980, and the trend continues in recent years. In most regions of the world, more than half of currently married women of reproductive age use contraceptives. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, levels of use are below 20 per cent. Low levels of use are also found in some countries in all other developing regions.
In all regions-and in almost all countries-fertility rates are declining, but the world's population is still increasing. The downward trend in overall levels of fertility has continued around the world and the upward trend observed during the 1980s in some developed countries-Finland, Sweden and the United States-has reversed. Although fertility has declined in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa, fertility in that region remains the highest in the world, at 5.4 births per woman.
Despite lower fertility rates, many women still lack access to reproductive health services. This situation has been universally recognized as a leading factor in maternal and infant morbidity and mortality. In developing countries, for example, maternal mortality continues to be a leading cause of death for women of reproductive age. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimate that a woman's lifetime risk of dying from maternal causes is 1 in 16 in Africa, while a woman's risk is 1 in 1,400 in Europe. Furthermore, millions of women suffer from injuries and disabilities from maternal causes, often for the rest of their lives. WHO estimates that more than a quarter of all adult women in developing regions have pregnancy-related health problems.
Although new importance is being placed on women's reproductive health and "safe motherhood", data are not yet available to show whether the new concern with safe motherhood has been translated into improved maternal care. Recent data show that many women in developing countries receive little or no skilled prenatal or delivery care-services thought to play a major role in the reduction of maternal mortality and morbidity. For example, around half of pregnant women in most countries of Southern Asia and one third of women in many countries of Africa receive no prenatal care (WHO recommends a minimum of four prenatal consultations for a normal pregnancy). Moreover, in many countries of sub-Saharan Africa and in Southern Asia, about 60 per cent of women have no skilled attendant present at delivery, and even fewer women deliver in health facilities.
According to recent data, the timing of marriage is changing and the composition of the family continues to be diverse. For example, most people still marry but they marry later in life, especially women. In some countries of developing regions, consensual unions remain common, while polygynous unions are common in parts of Africa. In developed countries, marriages preceded by a period of cohabitation have increased and remarriage after divorce is more often postponed or never occurs.
In developed regions, since 1990, births outside marriage have increased greatly and lone-parent families (families in which children are raised by only one parent) are becoming more common. In addition, in developing regions, many children live away from their parents-for example, at least one third of girls and one fifth of boys aged 12 to 14 in some countries of sub-Saharan Africa.
The Beijing Platform for Action recognized that without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women's perspectives at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace for women and men cannot be achieved. This recognition itself grew out of the active participation of women. Women, individually and as members and leaders of non-governmental organizations, have organized at the grass-roots, national and international levels to press Governments and international organizations to address issues central in the lives of women, including women's human rights, violence against women, reproductive health and unpaid work. They have engaged in education programmes to raise awareness, worked for legislation in these areas and lobbied for new data collection and analysis on topics of concern to women. The impact of their work is shown throughout the present publication.
With the support and encouragement of women's groups around the world, Governments were urged at the Beijing Conference to take measures to ensure women's access to, and full participation in, governance and leadership. However, in the years since the Conference, women's participation in the top levels of government and business has not markedly increased.
During the first part of 2000, only nine women were heads of State or Government. In 1998, 8 per cent of the world's cabinet ministers were women, compared to 6 per cent in 1994. Sweden is the only country with a majority of women ministers-55 per cent. Worldwide, more progress has been made in the appointment of women to sub-ministerial positions, particularly in the Caribbean and the developed regions outside of Europe, where women hold approximately 20 per cent of sub-ministerial positions.
Gender parity in parliamentary representation is also still far from being realized. In 1999, women represented 11 per cent of parliamentarians worldwide, compared to 9 per cent in 1987. Women's representation, on average, was highest in Western Europe (21 per cent) and in the developed regions outside Europe (18 per cent). Only the Nordic countries and the Netherlands have at least one third women parliamentarians.
Women are faring no better in the corporate world. For example, in 1999, women accounted for 11 to 12 per cent of corporate officers in the 500 largest corporations in the United States. While women accounted for 12 per cent of the corporate officers of the 560 largest corporations in Canada in 1999, they occupied only 3 per cent of the highest positions of those corporations. In Germany, in 1995, between 1 and 3 per cent of top executives and board directors in the 70,000 largest enterprises were women.
While women's share of administrative and managerial workers rose between 1980 and the early 1990s in every region of the world, except Southern Asia, the proportion of women in these positions is still low. For example, women's share at least doubled in sub-Saharan Africa (from 7 to 14 per cent) and in Western Asia (from 4 to 9 per cent). Even in developed regions outside Europe, women's share is only 35 per cent, although it has increased from 16 per cent since 1980.
The Beijing Platform for Action also highlights the potential of the new communications technologies to empower women and to advance their concerns. Girls, however, are much less likely than boys to enrol in mathematics and computer science courses, and, in a recent survey, men outnumbered women by about three to one among those planning careers in computer or information sciences. While, in some countries, women represent a rapidly increasing proportion of Internet users, they are more likely than men to lack the basic literacy and computer skills required for access to the emerging information and communications fields. Today, for the most part, a small minority of the population has access to the Internet, even in developed regions.
As part of the Beijing Platform for Action, statisticians were called upon to develop a more comprehensive knowledge of all forms of work and employment. Efforts to improve measurement of women's participation and contribution to the economy and of the conditions of their work have been under way for some years and were strengthened by the Beijing Conference. Often, standard concepts and measurements inadequately represent the reality of women's work, however, and available statistics are still far from providing a strong basis for its assessment.
Over the past two decades, women's economic activity rates increased in all regions except sub-Saharan Africa, the transition economies of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Oceania. The largest increase occurred in South America, where rates rose from 26 to 45 per cent between 1980 and 1997. The lowest rates were found in Northern Africa and Western Asia, where less than one third of women were economically active.
An important aspect of these increasing rates of economic participation is that more women are in the labour force during their reproductive years. In Asia and Africa, women have always remained in the labour force until well beyond their reproductive period. But in other regions-in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, North America and Oceania-economic activity rates peaked for women in their early twenties throughout the 1970s. Now, according to regional data for 1990, labour force participation rates are high for women in their twenties, rise through their thirties and decline only after age 50. Increasingly, women remain in the labour force during their childbearing and child-rearing years because women now have fewer children and even those with young children are now likely to be employed.
Although the gender gap in rates of economic activity is narrowing, the nature of women's and men's participation in the labour force continues to be very different. Women still have to reconcile family responsibilities and market work and they work in different jobs and occupations than men, most often with lower status. Women have always engaged in the less formal types of work, working as unpaid workers in a family business, in the informal sector or in various types of household economic activities. They also continue to receive less pay than men. In manufacturing, for example, in 27 of the 39 countries with data available, women's wages were 20 to 50 per cent less than those of men. However, the limited data suggest that the differential between women's and men's earnings narrowed between 1990 and 1997 in the majority of these countries.
In many regions-in Africa, South America, Southern Asia and Eastern and Southern Europe, self-employment in non-agricultural activities, such as petty trading, service repairs, transport and small manufacturing, increased between 1970 and 1990. In these regions, women's self-employment as a proportion of the non-agricultural labour force has grown. The largest increase was in sub-Saharan Africa, where women's self-employment grew from 44 to 90 per cent between 1970 and 1990. There is also evidence that more self-employed women are becoming involved in the micro and small enterprise sector. For example, the number of women business owners and operators rose in nearly every Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country during the last decade.
Close to half or more of the female non-agricultural labour force is in the informal sector in seven of the 10 Latin American countries for which data are available and in four Asian countries. In India and Indonesia, for example, nine out of every 10 women not working in agriculture are working in the informal sector.
Official statistics on home-based work-work performed in the home for an outside enterprise for wages or in-kind remuneration-are scarce and, even where they are collected, the statistics probably underestimate its prevalence. However, data available for the 1990s indicate that home-based work is an important and expanding source of employment worldwide, and that women predominate in this sector. The unsatisfactory conditions of home-based workers are also a source of concern. In 1996, the ILO International Convention on Home Work recognized the rights of home-based workers to treatment equal to that of other workers, and set a standard for minimum pay and working conditions.
Perhaps the major factor still influencing gender-based differentials in the labour market is the division of labour within the household-the time spent in the unpaid work of cleaning, caring for family members and preparing meals. Seven national studies undertaken between 1995 and 1999 in seven countries (mainly in the developed regions) show that women continue to spend substantially more time on unpaid work than men, even as they get old. Moreover, in most countries surveyed, the presence of small children requires women to allocate more time than men to unpaid work. It is difficult to tell from the data at hand if there has been any movement in recent years toward gender equality in unpaid work.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to wreak havoc throughout the world and is of growing concern at every level of life: families are being decimated; social services are becoming overburdened; and the development prospects of entire countries are being threatened. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that the toll of HIV/AIDS on women may be increasing. According to recent Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) global estimates, women now account for almost half of the 32.4 million adults currently living with HIV/AIDS and of the 12.7 million adults who have died from the disease since the epidemic began. In 1999, 52 per cent of the 2.1 million adults who died from AIDS worldwide were women. The majority of these deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, where women account for 55 per cent of those infected with HIV/AIDS-i.e., there are 12 African women currently infected with the virus for every 10 African men. Women's risk of becoming infected with HIV during unprotected sexual intercourse is also known to be two to four times higher than that of men.
The Beijing Platform for Action recognized that social and cultural factors often increase women's vulnerability to HIV and may determine the course that the infection takes in their lives. Women too often do not have the power to insist on safe and responsible sex practices and have little access to public health information and services, both of which have been found to be effective in preventing the disease and/or slowing its progress. HIV/AIDS reaches beyond women's health to their roles as mothers and caregivers and their contributions to the economic support of their families. This requires that Governments continue to collect and analyze gender-disaggregated data on the prevalence and consequences of HIV/AIDS.
The production and dissemination of gender-sensitive data have increased with each of the world conferences on women, slowly at first but gaining new momentum by the time of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. While a great deal of work had been done on gender statistics before Beijing, there was much more left to be done, both in countries and by international agencies. The Beijing Platform for Action outlined a comprehensive set of actions to "generate and disseminate gender-disaggregated data and information for planning and evaluation" (see annex 1, which reproduces strategic objective H.3 of the Platform for Action).
Many of the actions required to implement the comprehensive mandates on gender statistics put forth by the Beijing Conference are under way. In addition to the data and analysis presented in The World's Women 2000, the following represent some of these efforts:
For many years, most national statistical agencies have had a policy of disaggregating data by sex and age whenever it is appropriate to do so. The Beijing Platform for Action also gave new importance to the reflection in statistics of all issues relating to women and men in society. These mandates have received support in legislative statements and in other directives. Some examples include:
The general approach in the development of gender statistics has involved efforts to promote dialogue and understanding between statisticians and the various users of statistics-policy makers, representatives of non-governmental organizations, activists and researchers. User-producer seminars and training workshops, which are the first step in the development of gender statistics, have been held in countries around the world over the past 15 years. In recent years, for example, training workshops were conducted in Arab, Central American, and Caribbean countries and in many countries in transition .
Some Governments and international organizations are making a concerted effort to produce statistical publications on gender that present and interpret topical data on women and men in a form suitable for a wide range of non-technical users.
Sweden has been at the forefront of producing publications on gender statistics. For example, Women and Men in Sweden: Facts and Figures, first published in 1985 by Statistics Sweden, has been a model for work supported by the Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA), in consultation with Statistics Sweden, in 35 countries in Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, Latin America and transition countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In addition, four publications were prepared for cities and regions in the Russian Federation. Sweden was also instrumental in the production of a regional publication, Women and Men in East, Central and Southern Africa: Facts and Figures 1995, as well as a training manual, Engendering Statistics: A Tool for Change, published in 1996, which is now available in four languages (Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Spanish).
Other efforts to produce statistical publications on gender include:
Though few of these books are published on a regular basis, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Philippines, Sweden, the Nordic Council and the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) have each published at least two gender statistics publications.
Involving additional stakeholders
Responding to the Beijing Platform, centres for women's studies and research organizations, both at the national and international levels, are becoming more involved with statistical producers in developing and testing appropriate indicators and research methodologies to strengthen gender analysis, as well as in monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the goals of the Beijing Conference. Examples include:
A review of progress in gender statistics shows that considerable work has been done and advances made in ways of presenting gender statistics effectively. Data users know much more today than they did 10 years ago about how women's and men's situations differ in terms of their social, political and economic life. Further, as reflected in the Beijing Platform for Action, users of data are asking more questions than ever, thus increasing the demand for statistics.
Much remains to be done, however, to provide the statistics necessary to understand what is happening with respect to the main issues related to gender and to meet the requirements of the global conferences. Some of the work required relates to new data on issues unique to women-for example, violence against women and maternal health. Other work is required for the development of new data on men, especially in the areas related to their roles and responsibilities in reproductive health, fatherhood and unpaid work. The World's Women 2000 describes efforts initiated since the 1990s to collect data on these and other topics.
Much of what is needed to understand the situation of women and men requires that all countries improve the capacity of their national statistical systems to regularly collect basic data, including births, deaths, marriages, place of residence, household formation, employment and other aspects of work, health and economic status. The improvement of national statistical capacity-the ability to provide timely and reliable statistics from censuses, household surveys and administrative systems-is essential for improving the quality and timeliness of gender statistics.
The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has recognized the importance of statistical capacity-building for the implementation and follow-up of the global conferences. The Council has urged countries, international and regional agencies and donors to work together to support national statistical capacity-building in developing countries.
The Beijing Platform asks Governments to appoint staff to strengthen gender statistics programmes, to ensure coordination, monitoring and linkage to all fields of statistical work, and to prepare output that integrates statistics from the various subject areas. Few countries have designated staff responsible for gender statistics and among those that have, the arrangement is generally for part-time work in connection with other work in social statistics. Whatever the specific arrangements, a necessary condition for carrying out work on national gender policy is leadership by the national statistical agencies, in order to develop the necessary databases, to undertake the analytic work and to develop the new concepts required to measure women's situations and their contributions to society.
Recent international conferences recognized that gender-based data collection and analysis are invaluable tools not only for understanding the situations and conditions of women's and men's lives but also for informing policies and practices to improve their lives. By recognizing and filling some of the gaps that exist in data collection and analysis, The World's Women 2000 hopes to shed light on the progress made to date-and challenges still ahead-in achieving equity and equality for the world's women.