Tomorrow, March 8, is International Women’s Day. The earliest Women’s Day celebrations were organized in the early twentieth century by commie firebrand types like Germany’s Clara Zetkin and Russia’s Alexandra Kollantai. The purpose was to bring together two great political movements, feminism and socialism, and to pay tribute women’s revolutionary potential. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which killed 146 women in 1911, inspired a new wave of women's labor activism that helped popularlize International Women's Day celebrations throughout the world.
Today, the radical ardor behind the original project has cooled considerably—to the point where International Women's Day sometimes seems like just another excuse to sell cheap pink crap. Nevertheless, in honor of the socialist spirit that motivated the original observances, I thought I’d write a post focusing on some of the economic injustices facing women around around the world today.
As it happens, this month saw the release of a new World Bank report on women in the work world. Much as I’d love to be doing a happy dance and celebrating all the advances women have made since Clara Zetkin’s day, it’s sobering to realize how little things have changed for so many women around the globe. Even in countries where women have advanced, gender economic inequality remains a serious problem.
Consider some of the report’s major findings:
• Women continue to trail behind men by every economic measure.
• Their labor force participation of women worldwide has stagnated over the past two decades, declining slightly from 57 percent to 55 percent today. Female labor force participation has sunk as low as 25 percent in the Middle East and North Africa.
• According to an ILO analysis of eighty-three countries, on average, women earn between 10 and 30 percent less than comparable men. There is no country in the earth where women have reached wage parity.
• Sexist bias and social norms continue to impose an enormous penalty on women’s economic well-being. Women worldwide spend at least twice as much time as men do on unpaid housework and care work. According to the report’s authors, close to 40 percent of people worldwide “agree that, when jobs are scarce, men should have more right to jobs than women.”