11. Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector



Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector is the share of female workers in the non-agricultural sector expressed as a percentage of total employment in the sector.


The non-agricultural sector includes industry and services. Following the International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC) of All Economic Activities, industry includes mining and quarrying (including oil production), manufacturing, construction, electricity, gas, and water. Services includes wholesale and retail trade; restaurants and hotels; transport, storage and communications; financing, insurance, real estate and business services; and community, social and personal services.


Employment refers to people above a certain age who worked, or held a job, during a reference period. Employment data include both full-time and part-time workers whose remuneration is determined on the basis of hours worked or number of items produced and is independent of profits or expectation of profits.


Goal/target addressed

Goal 3. Promote gender equality and empower women.

Target 4. Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005 and in all levels of education no later than 2015.



The indicator measures the degree to which labour markets are open to women in industry and service sectors, which not only affects equal employment opportunity for women but also economic efficiency through flexibility of the labour market and therefore the economy’s ability to adapt to change.


A significant global increase over the last decade in women’s share in paid employment in the non-agricultural sector indicates that working women have become more integrated into the monetary economy through participation in the formal and informal sectors. However, labour markets remain strongly segregated. In many countries, productive work under conditions of freedom, equity and human dignity is in short supply, and this disproportionately affects women. Women are much more likely than men to work as contributing family workers, without their own pay, and in the informal sector, although there are large differentials between countries and at regional and national levels, often mirroring the relative importance of agriculture.


Method of computation

The total number of women in paid employment in the non-agricultural sector is divided by the total number of people in paid employment in that same sector.


Data collection and sources:

Data are obtained from population censuses, labour force surveys, enterprise censuses and surveys, administrative records of social insurance schemes, and official estimates based on results from several of these sources. Enterprise surveys and administrative records are likely to cover only large private and public sector employers, in particular in developing countries. The other sources may cover the whole relevant population.



International Labour Organization, Bureau of Statistics, www.ilo.org/stat.

Yearbook of Labour Statistics, annual, International Labour Organization (laborsta.ilo.org).

Key Indicators of the Labour Market, International Labour Organization (www.ilo.org/kilm).

United Nations Statistics Division, unstats.un.org/unsd/class.

World Development Indicators, annual, World Bank (www.worldbank.org/data).

Women’s Participation in the Labour Force: A Methods Test in India for Improving Its Measurement, Women, Work and Development 16, 1988, R. Anker, M.E. Khan, and R.B. Gupta, International Labour Office.

Assessing Women’s Economic Contribution to Development, 1988, International Labour Office.

Engendering Statistics: A Tool for Change, 1996, Statistics Sweden.



Periodicity of measurement:

Results from population censuses are normally available every 10 years, while estimates based on other sources may be available annually or less frequently in some developing countries.


Gender issues

There are large differences between women and men in non-agricultural employment, in particular in developing countries. This is the result of differences between rates of participation in employment for women and men as well as the kind of employment in which they participate. In many regions, women are more likely than men to be engaged in informal sector activities and subsistence or unpaid work in the household.


Wage employment in most of Africa and much of Asia and the Pacific is a middle-class, urban phenomenon. Outside of urban areas, most employment is agricultural, often for family subsistence. However, where non-agricultural employment is available, it is more likely to go to male members of the household.


As economies develop, the share of women in non-agricultural wage employment becomes increasingly important. A higher share in paid employment could secure for them better income, economic security and well-being. However, this shift is not automatic, nor does it account for differentials in working conditions between men and women. Other variables need to be considered, such as level of education, level of remuneration and wage differentials and the extent to which women and men benefit from labour legislation and social programs. Men more often hold regular and better remunerated jobs, whereas women are frequently in peripheral, insecure, less valued jobs, as home workers, casual workers or part-time or temporary workers.


International data comparisons

International data are compiled by the International Labour Organization based on data reported by countries. An increasing number of countries report economic activity according to the ISIC.

See also “Comment and limitations”.


Yearbook of Labour Statistics, annual, International Labour Organization (laborsta.ilo.org).

World Development Indicators, annual, World Bank (www.worldbank.org/data).



Comments and limitations

Although there are clear international standards for the relevant concepts, countries may use different definitions for employment status, especially for part-time workers, students, members of the armed forces and household or contributing family workers. Also, different sources of data may use different definitions and have different coverage, with limited comparability across countries and over time within the same country. The employment share of the agricultural sector is severely under-reported. Also, studies have shown that employment activity questions on standard censuses tend to grossly underestimate the extent of female employment of any kind.



Ministries of labour.

National statistical offices.

International Labour Organization.