issue 227 - January 1992
Few parts of the world remain untouched by feminism.
But how much have women's lives actually changed during the
past 20 years? The latest UN statistics tell the story.
POLITICS AND PUBLIC LIFE
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
. Three quarters of women aged 25 and over are still illiterate in much of Africa and Asia.
HEALTH AND CHILD BEARING
. Contraceptive use has increased in the poor world from under 15 per cent of sexually active women in 1960/5 to 33 per cent in the early 1980s.
. A third of all those with HIV in the world are women. Aids is now the leading cause of death among women aged 20-40 in major cities of Western Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas, including New York.
. Women who become pregnant face a risk of death due to pregnancy that is 80 to 600 times greater in the poor world than in the rich.
. Of 8,000 abortions in Bombay opted for after parents learned the sex of the foetus through amniocentesis only one would have been a boy.
HOME AND FAMILY
. The proportion of divorced women has increased worldwide - in the rich world from 2.8 per cent in 1970 to 6.4 per cent in 1985. The proportion of women never married increased too - in Africa from 23 to 33 per cent.
. Births outside marriage are now 40 per cent of the total in some countries of Africa, the Caribbean and Northern Europe. In the US, Australia and Aotearoa/NZ the number doubled or tripled.
. In Norway women provide 67 per cent of formal and informal care - but one third of elderly women have no-one to ask for help.
. In Colombia one in five bodily injuries during 1982/3 was due to conjugal violence and 94 per cent of those hospitalized were battered women.
. A third of US female homicide victims in 1984 died at the hands of their husband or partner.
WORK AND MONEY
. In developing countries very poor women are now working 60-90 hours a week just to maintain the meagre living standards of a decade ago.
. Before 1975 women and men in Western Europe worked (paid and unpaid) similar hours. Now women work 5-6 hours more than men per week. In Eastern Europe they work 7 hours more than men.
. Only in North America and Australia do women work (paid and unpaid) the same number of hours as men. Shopping is more evenly shared but women still do 75 per cent of household chores.
. When women do the same work as men they get paid 30-40 per cent less pay on average worldwide. In Canada women professionals still earn 15-20 per cent less than their male counterparts.
. Although women's participation in the informal sector is increasing returns are decreasing, and there is a bigger gap in earning between women and men than in the formal sector.
. Women hold 10-20 per cent of managerial and administrative jobs worldwide and less than 20 per cent of manufacturing jobs. Of the top 1,000 US corporations only two are headed by women.