THE reported low concentration of women in the labour market and their high unemployment rate in comparison to men, was one of the concerns raised by the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) when they met with representatives from Jamaica during their 52nd session in New York recently.
The committee noted that despite the high educational achievement of women in the country, they were mostly concentrated in low paying jobs, and urged the government to, among other things, develop policies with time bound targets to eliminate occupational segregation and create equality between men and women in the labour market.
"While recognising the Employment (Equal pay for men and women) Act, the committee is concerned about reports that indicate that women earn less than their male counterparts for comparable work," was the review given during the session.
In response to the committee's observations of Jamaica's labour market, the Jamaican team, led by information minister Sandrea Falconer, said that special attention was being given to support businesses led and dominated by women in micro-economic enterprises. This was being facilitated through the strengthening of management skills, marketing, financing, product development, e-commerce and customer service.
"Research also shows that most women in management positions in both the public and private sectors are clustered in the middle-management category and that females are still under-represented in top positions, including cabinet positions and the boards of companies," Falconer said.
"To this end, steps are being taken through research on governance and educational reform to address certain underlying factors, including prevailing social and cultural attitudes that contribute to the under-representation of women in high paying occupations and professions," she said.
Falconer pointed to recent collaboration with the United Nations Democracy Fund, to launch a training programme entitled Strengthening Women's Leadership in Jamaica. The project is geared towards improving and increasing the presence and influence of 100 women serving on boards and commissions in Jamaica and another 15 women at the grassroots level to be community facilitators.
The committee also raised questions about efforts being made to introduce flexible work arrangements to facilitate work and family responsibilities, and also wanted to know the progress being made by the country in adopting legislation addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.
In response, Falconer noted that a paper on flexible work time has been developed and so too has a draft anti-sexual harassment policy which is currently being reviewed by the minister of justice. She said that while there is no official policy governing paternity leave, it was being provided by some organisations.