Latin America’s labor force is becoming increasingly feminized as 33 million women joined the labor market between 1990 and 2004, according to a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report. However, these women are typically confined to traditionally gendered roles that pay less money, earning 20 to 30 percent less than their male counterparts. Up to 60 percent of Latin American women cite childrearing responsibilities as reasons to leave, or not even enter, the labor market, UNFPA reports.
Citing family obligations as a factor in keeping women out of the labor force, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said at a women’s rights conference in Ecuador, “Women have taken on responsibility for caring for others, and people have assumed that this is natural, whereas it is not,” Inter Press Service reports. “It is essential to develop policies to address society’s public responsibility,” she continued. Fernandez de la Vega emphasized the need to do away with unpaid domestic labor. While poverty is rampant in Latin America, its devastating effects are exaggerated for women living in the region’s poorest countries like Bolivia, Guatemala and Haiti, where informal economies thrive and birth rates are high, UNFPA reports.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet emphasized the need for more representation of women in public offices to promote gender equity, reports the Inter Press Service. Currently, women hold only 5.3 percent of local government offices and 20.2 percent of parliamentary posts, according to a UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women report. An increase in female policymakers could help Latin American women curb sexual discrimination and demand a more equitable division of domestic labor.