A fairer labour market for women in Sierra Leone

Women in Sierra Leone participate in the labour market at a similar rate to men, but seldom on an equal footing, according to Invest Salone, the FCDO-funded private sector development programme. And although notable progress is being made in expanding opportunities for women and girls, constraints such as family responsibilities, social customs, traditions and unequal access to education, land, salaried employment and credit mean women still have fewer choices, lower wages and less job security.

As the world comes together on International Women’s Day to recognise women’s achievements and continue the call for equality, Invest Salone is using the opportunity to highlight the importance of a more inclusive labour market for Sierra Leone’s sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery.

Sierra Leone, like several other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, is characterised by high female labour force participation. In the 2020 WEF Global Gender Gap report it was one of the five most improved countries in the Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index. But there is no room for complacency. Research shows that men in Sierra Leone tend to earn 30% more than women. Men are much more likely to be professionals or technicians and have managerial positions. Men are also more likely to be salaried employees – giving them the advantage of job security and a regular wage. Women in comparison take up only 27% of the formal jobs in Sierra Leone. Furthermore, over 85% of firms have male top management, a similar percentage of firms have majority male ownership.

In Invest Salone’s focus sectors – agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing and tourism – women’s participation also faces challenges. In the tourism sector, women-owned firms are on average smaller, less profitable, and face more obstacles to their growth than male-owned tourism firms. In the important fishing sector, women make up over 85% of the processing workforce but only 4.6% of the fishing workforce.

At the policy level, Sierra Leone has made encouraging progress in recent months. In 2021, a Finance Act was passed that provides a tax incentive to businesses which employ more women in management positions, and in December 2020 the Government of Sierra Leone launched its Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy.

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It’s a call to action for gender parity that involves all sorts of activities and advocacy across the world including rallies, conferences and online events.

The campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is Choose To Challenge. A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change.

Closing gender gaps in public, private and social sectors could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025 according to a McKinsey Global Institute study. Even after decades of progress, the gap between men and women remains large.

For more information about Invest Salone’s work on women’s economic empowerment, contact us at enquiries@investsalone.com.

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