A woman working in the Maldives between 2006 and 2010 monthly earned a third less than her male counterpart in the same job, according the results of a new survey by the Department of National Planning, while young female entrants are struggling to find jobs.
High female unemployment
According to the ‘Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2009-2010’, 38,493 people (28 percent) were unemployed in 2010, of which 14,142 (37 percent) were male while 24,351 were female – almost double the male rate of unemployment.
The report highlights that between 2006 and 2010 unemployment increased by 20,000 – an increase of over 100 percent. The number of jobless women and men rose by 93 percent and 141 percent respectively.
According to the report, unemployment continued to be highest among females. In 2006, the overall unemployment rate for women was 15 percent, increasing to 39 percent in 2010, while male unemployment increased 10 percent to 19 percent in the same period.
Furthermore, nearly half the population of working-age women (45 percent) were recorded as not economically active, while only a fourth of the male working age population fell in this category. However the study did not take into account the high proportion of women working in small household-manufacturing activities, or those working on industrial islands or resorts – which if included, will significantly affect the results drawn under this survey.
While 40 percent women surveyed reported the reason for their unemployment as “unable to find suitable employment”, the second highest reason for female joblessness was due to their “engagement in household chores”. This was followed by “lack of opportunities” and “school attendance”.
The report also concluded that most unemployment existed in the young age groups, with the 15- 19 years and 20 – 24 years age group accounting for about 43 percent of the unemployment in the country. Out of the 17,083 unemployed youth, 51 percent are males, and 49 percent female.
The planning department stated that “for policy purposes, it is very important to decipher the reasons for the high levels of unemployment, in the youth age group as well as among the females, and understanding the differences between locations.”
Among the reasons for unemployment in the youth group (15 – 24 years), “unable to find suitable employment” ranks the highest followed by “lack of opportunities” and in third “youth engaged in studies”, according to the survey.
Struggle for work
Employment of males increased four percent during the four year period, while employment of women fell seven percent.
The planning department concluded that “this indicates a huge influx of ‘new working age population’ to the labour force, of which more male entrants succeeded in obtaining a job while the fairer sex did not.”
“It is clear from the rising levels of unemployment that the Maldives has been unable to create jobs to accommodate new job seekers. Particularly young new entrants, and specifically females in the job market, struggle to find a job.”
“For males, it is the age groups at both ends that experience significant unemployment, while for the females, all age groups have similar unemployment rates except for the 65 years and above,” the department added.
Between 2006 and 2010, the total working age population increased significantly, however, “new jobs did not emerge to absorb this huge increase, boosting unemployment,” the report observed. “In fact compared to 2006, in 2010 there were close to 600 fewer jobs in the labour market.”
The total larbor force amounted to 136,886 people in 2010, of which 45 percent were women.
According to a UNDP report “Women in Public Life in the Maldives” published last year a “considerable gap” exists in women’s opportunities in taking active part in economic and political life” while “there were no policies in place that provide equal opportunities for women’s employment.”
“The absence of childcare facilities make it difficult for women to remain employed after they have children. The HRCM also received reports that some employers discouraged women from marriage or pregnancy, as it could result in employment termination or demotion,” the report said.
Restriction on women’s mobility and reluctance from family members to allow women to travel alone to other islands for work were also identified as key obstacle to employment.
While the tourism industry contributes indirectly to over 70 percent of the national income, a report published in September 2011found that social stigma prevented women from working in the sector.
According to the study, “Women in Tourism: Challenges of Including Women in the Maldivian Resort Sector”, Maldivian women accounted for only three percent of all women working in the sector – which was already 92 percent male dominated.
Gender earning gaps
The planning department found during the survey that “similar work paid different remunerations depending on sex and location.”
According to the report, on average a male earned Rf7036 (US$456) per month, whereas a female earned about a third less of what a male earned – Rf4674 (US$303). This discrepancy is observed across Male’ as well as the atolls.
For example, in the ‘Financial Intermediation’ and ‘Extra-territorial’ industries, which account for highest monthly incomes, a male earned more than Rf11,000 (US$713) whereas a female in this same industry earned 19 percent less – Rf9000 (US$583). Men earned more than women in almost all industries studied.
Meanwhile, legislators, senior officials and managers across the board on average earned the highest monthly income, with males in this occupation category earning more than Rf13,000 (US$843) while females earned only a little more than Rf 9000 (US$583).
“Those employed in Male’ earn more than those in the atolls for all industries except quarrying and the financial intermediation industries,” noted the Planning Department in the report. “This signifies that across all industries, males are paid higher than females and earners in Male’ are paid higher than those in the atolls.”
“It is interesting to study the returns to employment for wage earners by occupation, by location, and gender. The question why males are paid higher incomes than females, for the same jobs and in the same occupation or same industry, is worth additional research,” the department suggested.
Financial intermediation sector and extra-territorial organizations and bodies sector were found to have the slightest indication of gender balance in the workforce, while all other industries were dominated by male or female.
More women were employed in elementary occupations with a substantial 21 percent increase while male employment decreased in this occupation by three percent, the report noted. A high proportion of these jobs are concentrated in the public administration, with a higher share of women amongst the government employees.