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publication Mar 27, 2018

Perceptions of Precariousness: A Qualitative Study of Constraints Underlying Gender Disparities in Mongolia’s Labor Market

Key Findings

  • Compared to the majority of countries in the East Asia and Pacific Region, gender disparities in Mongolia are relatively muted.
  • However, many Mongolian women face gender-specific constraints in accessing jobs and career opportunities.
  • The new World Bank study looks at constraints underlying gender disparities in Mongolia and provides policy recommendations to address them.
  • Building on biographical interviews and focus group discussions with members of various strata of society as well as expert interviews with local labor and social welfare offices, the study is the first in-depth qualitative research on gender gaps in Mongolia’s labor market.

Where are the gender gaps in Mongolia’s labor market?

  • Women on average have higher level of education than men in Mongolia. Yet, they are less likely to make use of their educational attainment by actively participating in the labor market.
  • Labor force participation rates in Mongolia have generally been much higher among men than among women. Between 1996 and 2015, the gender gap in labor force participation rates more than doubled from 4.8 percentage points to 12.6 percentage points.
  • In addition, employed women have consistently had lower average earnings than employed men. The relative gender earnings gap stood at 12.5 percent in 2015.
  • Marked differences also exist in the types of jobs typically pursued by men and women. A relatively large share of women—particularly in rural areas—is employed in precarious informal work and unpaid family work.
  • Women’s participation in entrepreneurial work is far lower than that of men, and the prevalence of men and women in different sectors of activity also differs.

What are the reasons underlying the gender disparities?

  • The important reasons underlying gender disparities in the labor market include norms, such as prevailing views on men’s and women’s roles with respect to marriage, household and care duties, and suitable career choices and jobs.
  • Society expects women to devote most of their adult lives to supporting their husbands and raising their children.
  • While some women manage to combine fulfilling those expectations with maintaining a successful career, many others perceive the quality and quantity of childcare facilities as inadequate to make this possible.
  • Many female workers also perceive working hours to be insufficiently flexible making it difficult for women to participate in the labor market. This is also perceived as a sign of employers’ disregard for the con­cerns of female workers.
  • Some differential legal treatments of men and women appear to cement the acceptance of traditional gender roles.
  • Government services and policies are often ineffective tools for addressing gender disparities, partly because they lack focus on gender-specific constraints.

How can Mongolia address these constraints?

  • Reform Mongolia’s legal environment and enforce nondiscrimination in hiring and other aspects of the law on gender equality. To aid in enforcement, step up monitoring of gender-specific indicators.
  • Strengthen the client orientation of labor-market intermediation services and labor-market monitoring and analysis. Foster active labor-market policies in general, and improve their responsiveness to gender-specific constraints.
  • Expand support for microentrepreneurship to realize the full potential of women as microentrepreneurs, including through the provision of finance and training for women-owned and -operated microbusinesses.
  • Expand the quality and quantity of eldercare and, in particular, childcare services to enable more women to participate continuously in the labor market. Widen access to early-childhood education by targeting the most underserved rural areas.
  • Influence gender norms and attitudes among employers, human-resource managers, and the wider population through awareness campaigns, discussions, and training on modern strategies of human-resource development and gender-sensitive and age-related work planning.