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Digital Jobs Can Help Young Women Overcome Constraints in the Workforce

WASHINGTON — Digital jobs can bring new employment opportunities for young women in developing countries, says a new report by the Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) coalition. The report, titled Digital Jobs for Youth: Young Women in the Digital Economy, incorporates insights drawn from 19 case studies and lays out how jobs in the digital economy can increase young women’s productivity, earnings, and financial independence.

Gender disparity persists in the digital economy: globally, the share of women using the internet is 12 percent lower than that of men. Over 1.2 billion women in low and middle-income countries do not use mobile Internet, and women in these countries are 10 percent less likely to own mobile phones than men. Digital jobs can help reduce longstanding occupational segregation, including in the IT sector. Working in the digital economy also offers young women the flexibility to overcome mobility constraints and combat restrictive gender norms. Currently, women only account for only 38 percent of human capital wealth world-wide, compared to 62 percent for men. It is also estimated that $160 trillion in wealth is lost due to gender inequality in earnings. With unemployment rates for youth reported over 300% higher than those for adults, young women are at a higher risk of exclusion, according to the report.

While digital technology continues to create new forms of work, the absence of appropriate policies will prevent it from being fully inclusive. The report examines public and private sector initiatives that aim to close the gender gap in the digital economy. To empower women, governments can ensure women’s online rights are protected, promoting gender-inclusive digital skills in the education system, provide and subsidize equitable access to information and communications technology systems (ICTs), and run public initiatives to close the gender divide in the digital world. The private sector can implement more inclusive policies to address gender bias in the workspace as well as promote gender equity in supply chains.

“Digital jobs offer a unique opportunity for young men and women to overcome social, economic and political constraints to their participation in the workforce,” says Mamadou Biteye, Chair of S4YE’s Board of Directors and Managing Director for Africa at The Rockefeller Foundation. “Policymakers and practitioners can increase women’s labor force participation by supporting digital jobs programs that address the specific needs of young women.”

The report also provides operational recommendations in designing and implementing gender-inclusive interventions for young women seeking to enter the digital economy. It presents a newly developed typology which identifies the public sector, private sector, online outsourcing, and digital platforms that improve livelihoods, as the four drivers of demand for digital jobs. This typology can be used to map the degree to which digital jobs are accessible to different subgroups of youth and aims to help policy-makers in making investment decisions on local initiatives that support virtual freelancing or digital start-ups, creating more employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young women.