Many Caribbean women continue to struggle with formal employment, workplace discrimination

Regional heads urged to empower women, be inclusive when developing policies and legislation 

SAN PEDRO, BELIZE — Women are disproportionately impacted by disasters and more likely to struggle with rejoining formal workplaces despite being the heads of an estimated 40 percent of households in Latin America and the Caribbean.

This is according to CARICOM Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett, who called on regional heads to be more inclusive of women when developing policies.

CARICOM Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett.

“As is the case during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, disasters disproportionately increase women’s care burden, the incidence of gender-based violence and job losses.” - CARICOM Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett

Her comments come as countless international organizations brought women’s issues to the forefront in recognition of International Women’s Day, coinciding with the World Bank’s release of a study showing many women in Latin America and the Caribbean have little to no protection against workplace discrimination.

Barnett noted, “Overall, women head larger households than men and their livelihoods are more vulnerable to the impact of disasters.

“They also struggle more than men to find alternative livelihoods and re-enter the formal employment sector.

“As is the case during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, disasters disproportionately increase women’s care burden, the incidence of gender-based violence and job losses.”

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    Call to empower women in the workplace and beyond 

    According to the World Bank’s study, “Women, Business and the Law 2022”, women in Latin America and the Caribbean have “less than three-quarters of the legal rights of men”.

    Commenting on these findings, World Bank Senior VP and Chief Economist Carmen Reinhart said, “Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace if they are on an unequal footing at home.

    World Bank Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Carmen Reinhart.

    “Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace if they are on an unequal footing at home.” - World Bank Senior VP Carmen Reinhart

    “That means leveling the playing field and ensuring that having children doesn’t mean women are excluded from full participation in the economy and realizing their hopes and ambitions.”

    Mari Pangestu, World Bank managing director of development policy and partnerships, acknowledged progress made relating to gender equality in the workplace.

    However, she noted more must be done as “the gap between men's and women’s expected lifetime earnings globally is US$172 trillion — nearly two times the world’s annual GDP”.

    World Bank Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships Mari Pangestu.

    “Governments need to accelerate the pace of legal reforms so that women can realize their full potential and benefit fully and equally.” - World Bank Managing Director Mari Pangestu

    “As we move forward to achieve green, resilient and inclusive development, governments need to accelerate the pace of legal reforms so that women can realize their full potential and benefit fully and equally.”

    Speaking to climate-change action specifically, Barnett added, “Female-headed households, estimated to be 40 percent in the region, must be included when developing climate and disaster risk policies, programmes and projects.”

    She called on CARICOM to collectively “continue to increase the opportunities and minimize the constraints to empowering women and girls to have a voice, and to be equal partners in decision-making”.

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    World Bank, “Women, Business and the Law 2022” -

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