Eight years ago, the IDB tried to illustrate what Latin America and the Caribbean would look like if it was populated by only 100 people. This exercise gave us a perspective on many aspects of the living conditions of the population in the region: from how diverse it is, to the lack of access to basic services that a substantial percentage of it suffers.
On this International Women’s Day, we wanted to replicate this projection with the women of our region. We tried to illustrate in the following points only some of the gender gaps that are specific to Latin America and the Caribbean, based on quality evidence produced by the IDB. To achieve this, we invited six specialists from different divisions of the IDB to share what is behind these numbers, from a transversal and intersectoral perspective.
If there were 100 women in Latin America and the Caribbean…
26 out of 100
older women would have no income of any kind
In Latin America and the Caribbean, who has a greater healthy life expectancy? Women. However, they also have more chances of being poor at an older age. When these two dimensions are added up, measuring the number of years a 65-year-old person can expect to live in good health and without poverty, findings show that women have a lower quality of life expectancy than men in the same age range.
Even when female poverty at an older age has reduced in the last two decades, still 26 out of every 100 women between the ages of 50 and 80 do not have incomes of any kind – not from a job, nor pensions. The same number, for men, is 10%.
Part of the feminization of poverty in this age range is explained by the fact that women have bigger caretaking responsibilities, and this affects their jobs. At this age, this is mostly the caretaking needs of senior citizens who need long-term care. Another important gender-related dimension of functional dependence among older persons is the fact that it is most common among women.
Marco Stampini, from Social Protection and Health (SPH)
22 out of 100
teenage and young women would dedicate themselves exclusively to caretaking and domestic work
From an early age, women, their studies, and their professional careers are affected by gender-based stereotypes and biases. This results in an underrepresentation of women in high-paying careers. In Central America, the IDB has found that only 3 to 4% of teenagers think that women belong in hard science fields, like physics, astronomy, and engineering. In contrast, 40 to 50% think men belong to similar sectors. Given these are the highest-salary careers in the labor market, this generates a profound wage gap.
Stereotypes also dictate that women are the ones responsible for unpaid domestic work. Around 22 out of every 100 young women and teenagers between the ages 15 and 24 do not study or have a formal job: cleaning, cooking, and caretaking of children and the elderly in their homes is their only activity. Men in this same situation represent only 10%.
Another issue that adds up to these excessive caretaking and domestic work responsibilities, is teenage pregnancy. Even though the fertility rate has been reducing constantly since 2000, teenage pregnancies are still at high: more than 30 out of every 100 women in Latin America and the Caribbean would become a mother before turning 20 years old. An investigation by the IDB shows that teenage mothers who were interviewed are often in such complex disadvantaged situations that they consider a pregnancy does not change their life trajectory, but rather only accelerates it.
Emma Näslund-Hadley, from Education (EDU)
34 out of 100
women would have suffered gender-based violence. Between 17 and 27 of them would have still not asked for help
The prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Latin America and the Caribbean is alarming. According to data from WHO, 25 out of every 100 women have been victims of physical and/or sexual violence from their intimate partners at some point of their life. This number rises to 34 women if we consider sexual violence perpetrated outside of an intimate relationship. In its most extreme expression, in 2021, at least 4.473 women were victims of femicide or gender-based homicide in the region.
Growing manifestations of SGBV include human trafficking. According to recent estimations, most identified victims of human trafficking in the region are women and girls (83% in Central America and the Caribbean, and 63% in South America) and are three times more likely to suffer from physical or extreme violence (including sexual violence) by their male traffickers.
From an intersectional perspective, women belonging to diverse groups can be exposed to even greater risk. For example, women with disabilities experience greater violence than men with a disability or women without a disability. Trans women’s situation is also dramatic, as their life expectancy is no higher than 35 years old. Only in the last year, 327 trans and gender-diverse persons were murdered in the world. 95% of them were trans women or transfeminine persons, and 68% of these murders occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean.
María José Martinez from Innovation for Citizen Services (ICS)
Only 66 out of 100
women would have a job
The gender gaps in the labor market of Latin America and the Caribbean are huge. On average, the female labor participation rate is 26.2 percentual points lower than the male one. This gap represents an improvement compared to the 35.5 percentual point gap from 2000, but it is still considerable.
Additionally, the unemployment rate is larger for women (9 out of every 100) than men (6 out of every 100). The percentage of women workers with a with a partial time job (35 out of every 100) is substantially larger than the same rate for men (18 out of every 100). However, informality rates are similar between men and women workers.
These differences naturally translate into lower pensions during old age. Even with the expansion on non-contributive pensions, which do not depend on contributions made within the labor market and significantly benefit women, the percentage of older persons with a pension is lower for women (56.7%) than men (60.7%).
David Kaplan, from the Labor Markets Division (LMK)
10 out of 100
migrant women would be unemployed
Migrant women face additional barriers in the access to labor markets in their host country. Some examples are access to childcare and the recognition of education diplomas. These additional challenges are reflected in worse labor conditions in comparison to those of migrant men.
On average, in the region, women born abroad win 211 USD less than men born abroad (according to an analysis by the IDB). Migrant women have also more chances to be unemployed (10 out of every 100) than migrant men (5 out of every 100).
Additionally, on average, women born abroad have a greater chance of working more than 50 hours a week comparing to native women (25 out of every 100 comparing to 16 out of every 100). Although they have higher educational levels, migrant women often have difficulties finding jobs according to their abilities. In fact, on average, migrant women in Latin America and the Caribbean have a greater chance of being more qualified for their jobs than migrant men (28 vs 26 out of 100). This happens when we compare to native women as well. However, their higher credentials do not always translate into better jobs.