Global Resources

The jobs challenge

Publisher: World Bank Publications
Publication Date: Jan 2013

Demographic transitions, structural change, technological progress, and global volatility are all changing the world of work. Yet traditional farming and self-employment remain dominant in many countries, representing almost half of all jobs in the developing world. This book chapter, published by the World Bank, provides a broad, statistical overview of the changing nature of work around the world, including the continued gender-based differences in employment rates, earnings, and non-wage work. The publication discusses: the measurement of unemployment and underemployment; the conceptualisation of formal and informal work; the declining status of child-labour; the impact of shifting demographics (particularly “youth bulges” and aging societies); the impact of urbanisation on women’s wages; the growth of temporary staffing; and the impact of the global economic crisis on earnings. The document closes by examining the question: What is, and what isn’t, a job?



With regard to gender in particular, and the changing nature of work for women, the chapter presents a number of findings. The fraction of women in work varies greatly from country to country, exceeding 75% in Vietnam, but only 28% in Pakistan. Non-wage work accounts for 80% of women’s employment in sub-Saharan Africa, while globally, only 50% of women have jobs compared to 80% of men. This figure hides large discrepancies however, with women significantly underrepresented in wage employment in low- and lower-middle-income countries. Additionally, a shift from home to market production has negatively impacted women, who have tended to specialise in home production. Numerous case studies and examples are presented highlighting how women are increasingly working outside of the home, such as in Durban, South Africa, where women are no longer regarded merely as housewives according to a young woman taking part in a focus-group. However, while new opportunities may be emerging for women, so too are challenges as women find themselves overburdened by multiple roles and family responsibilities, and facing the threat of forced labour along with migrants and indigenous peoples.