Do the New Digital Professions Influence Differences in Access to the Labor Market Between Men and Women?

Introduction 

For several decades, more and more women have entered the labor market. This improves their investment in human capital and their ambitions in terms of penetration of the labor market, thus bringing them closer to men (1). In Sub-Saharan Africa, around eight out of ten women are in vulnerable jobs while only 6.7 out of ten are noted among men (2). Also, according to the same report, one in four women is employed in family businesses, but for men, only one in ten. Overall, several factors explain these gaps, including job insecurity among women and income volatility. To remedy this gender gap in access to the labor market, recent debates have shifted towards supply by taking into account employer discrimination and towards demand by considering differences in education and family responsibilities. Thus, with the Covid 19 pandemic, new professions have emerged and present themselves as solutions to the labor market access gap (3). The objective here is to show that these new professions can be solutions to resolve gender problems in the labor market. Thus, we will first present the situation of women in access to the labor market and then show the advantages of new professions to resolve the gaps in women’s access to the labor market.

  1. Discriminating factorsagainst women in access to the labor market

Sub-Saharan Africa has over 59.3% female workforce, making it the most active region in the world (4). However, this workforce is more employed in vulnerable jobs with precarious remuneration. Which shows that women have a lot of difficulty entering the job market compared to men. Several reasons can explain this situation.

First, there are stereotypes, sometimes based on laws, religious and traditional beliefs, or family considerations. In most African countries, there are legal restrictions on women’s access to employment, and many traditional forms of discrimination persist. In addition, men don’t accept women working outside the home, and some believe women should not work at all (5).

Another reason is that women must bear family and professional responsibilities simultaneously. This is how they end up in activities classified as “inferior jobs” due to professional segregation (6). Furthermore, other work shows that the problem of access to employment for women is also the result of the education received. Indeed, education systems in Sub-Saharan Africa direct women towards so-called “feminine” fields of study. For example, we see that only about 18 to 28% of women have STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics ) degrees , and 7 to 24% have construction degrees. However, the vast majority end up with diplomas in the social and health fields. All this leads women to jobs as domestic help, agricultural workers, or casual jobs.

  1. New professions as a solution to reducing inequalities in access to the labor market between men and women

A profession can be understood as a paid occupation divided into sectors (primary, secondary and tertiary). With the advent of digital technology, several new professions have emerged. The Covid 19 pandemic has made it possible to raise awareness of a good number which now present themselves as solutions to the problems of employment and access to the labor market, particularly for women. The new digital professions have advantages in terms of reducing distances, these professions are more flexible over time, reduce professional discrimination and can absorb the maximum number of women in need of employment regardless of their level of education. But to achieve this, there are prerequisites to take into account.

Firstly, we must develop training programmes on the use of digital technology for women. This measure could better equip women with the techniques and methods of searching for jobs on the web. The World Bank (2020) has identified four sources that reveal new uses of the web (7). These include the public and private sectors, online outsourcing, online service platforms and E-commerce. These sources represent employment niches for women in need of employment. To make these programmes more effective, it is therefore necessary to identify local needs or demands. For example, taking into account the needs of women in rural areas.

Secondly, improve the quality of IT infrastructure. Over the past decade, digital infrastructures have developed rapidly. However, there are strong disparities between countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of digital access. Rural areas continue to lag behind in all these countries, contributing to the internet access gap between men and women. The proof is that only 23% of women have access to the internet compared to 34% of men in 2013 (8). This growing gap is large because it went from 21% in 2013 to 33% in 2019. It must be recognized that until now considerable efforts have already been made. But household penetration of optical fiber remains low in sub-Saharan Africa only 2% in 2021 according to a Digital Council report (9)

Thirdly, Sub-Saharan Africa is ranked penultimate in terms of gender equality (10) and women find it twice as easy to set up an SME as men (11). Due to several factors, including lack of financing, SMEs run by women are less sustainable. It is therefore important to identify the needs and difficulties of women entrepreneurs and encourage them to migrate towards digital entrepreneurship.

Conclusion

In short, reducing the gap in access to the labor market between men and women requires digital technology. This is a way to empower women and enable them to contribute even more to the development of the economies of Sub-Saharan Africa. The new jobs offered by the web can thus allow women to self-employ themselves and even more to have flexibility between housework and professional activity.

To achieve this, governments should:

  • Develop digital training for women based on local needs and job offers in the digital labor market;
  • Improve the quality of infrastructure so as to extend this infrastructure to rural areas;
  • Finally, promote female entrepreneurship in digital technology.
Dr.-Herve-Nicanor-ONDOUA-1024x908
Dr. Hervé Ondoua
Economy Policy Analyst | + posts

Hervé Nicanor ONDOUA, est titulaire d’un Doctorat Ph.D en Economie de Développement obtenu en Janvier 2021 à l’Université de Yaoundé II-Soa (Cameroun). Il a dans la même université obtenue un Master en Gouvernance et Développement Economique et une Licence en Economie publique.

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