Analyzing Violence Against Women with Labor Participation and Sector Employment

What trends in labor can we see in the countries with the most and least violence against women?

The UN describes violence against women and girls as: “one of the most widespread, persistent, and devastating human rights violations in our world today. It remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma, and shame surrounding it.

In general terms, it manifests itself in physical, sexual, and psychological forms, encompassing:

  • Intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide);
  • Sexual violence and harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber-harassment);
  • Human trafficking (slavery, sexual exploitation);
  • Female genital mutilation;
  • Child marriage.

Estimates from the World Health Organization indicate that about 1 in 3 women worldwide (736 million women) have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Such violence can negatively affect women’s physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health for their lifetime.

This post will analyze the trends in female labor and employment in the countries with the most and least violence against women.

Violence Against Women Worldwide

To determine which countries had the most and least violence against women, I used a Kaggle Dataset that aggregated survey data with key questions across gender, education level and many other socioeconomic variables from 70 different countries. The questions from the survey asked participants if they agreed with statements such as “A husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife … if she burns the food, if she refuses to have sex with him, if she neglects the children, etc).

Using this data, I created a “Violence Score” metric for each country based on the percentage of respondents who agreed with the statements. I generated a weighted mean out of the responses by both men and women, weighting the responses 60% by women and 40% by men. From this aggregate I found the 20 countries that were the most and the least violent against women.

From the map we can see that the countries with the most violence against women are in the African and Middle Eastern regions, followed by some areas in South East Asia. This dataset does not have information from Western regions, which would have been useful to create a holistic understanding of the violence experience by women globally.

Global Female Labor Participation

I consolidated data from the World Bank DataBank of Gender Statistics to find the labor force participation rate of females over the past 10 years. The data showed national estimates of the percentage of females working or actively working of the total female population 15 years or older. I was then able to determine the countries with the highest labor participation rate.

The Female Labor Force Participation Rate by Country map shows us that the countries with the countries with the highest rate of labor force participation by females are spread around the world in areas such as East Africa, Oceania, Eastern and Western. The countries with the lowest rate of labor force participation by females are condensed in North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and some parts of Southern Africa.

How do female labor participation rates differ between the countries with the most violence against women and the least?

We can see that countries with the least violence against women have much higher female labor participation rates than the countries with the most violence against women. These findings are on par with current research on violence against women and labor market outcomes that suggest that sexual violence against women is associated with lower probability of labor force participation. Such labor market effects of sexual violence can be partially explained by the adverse psychological and physical consequences that survivors must cope with.

Global Female Employment by Sector

I gathered data from the same World Bank DataBank to find employment of females in the agriculture, industry, and services sectors over the past 10 years. The data showed national estimates of the percentage of females working in each sector out of the total females employed. I wanted to see if there was a relationship between violence against women and the types of jobs women are employed in.

It is clear from the two charts above that women who live countries with the most violence against women predominantly work in the agriculture sector while women who live countries with the least violence against women predominantly work in the services sector. The agricultural industry inherently has more risk factors that increase the likelihood of sexual violence. According to a literature review curated by Oxfam America:

“ The physical environment of farm work is often remote, offering harassers opportunities to conceal their behavior. The nature of the work requires women to bend over and crouch, placing them in vulnerable physical positions as they work in close proximity to men. The workforce is commonly made up of family relations, friends and neighbors, blurring the line between work life and family life, which increases the risk of sexual violence and deters women from reporting abuse.”

Moreover, the services industry often has higher wages and labor law protections that can protect their female workers from violence, while most workers in the agricultural industry work in a shadow economy that is excluded from major labor law protections.

A few observations:

  • Countries with the most violence against women are in the African and Middle Eastern regions, followed by some areas in South East Asia.
  • Countries with the highest rate of labor force participation by females are spread around the world in areas such as East Africa, Oceania, Eastern and Western. The countries with the lowest rate of labor force participation by females are condensed in North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and some parts of Southern Africa.
  • Sexual violence against women is associated with lower probability of labor force participation.
  • Women who live countries with the most violence against women predominantly work in the agriculture sector while women who live countries with the least violence against women predominantly work in the services sector.
  • The physical and physiological environment of sectors can influence the the likelihood of sexual violence experienced by women.

Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, and the immediate and long-term physical, sexual, and mental consequences for women and girls can be devastating, including death. Women have a right to live free from violence and ending violence against women is everyone’s business. We must protect our women.

Data Sources:

About the Author

Stephanie Tan is currently a senior at the University of Pennsylvania. She is passionate about women’s rights and protecting women from human rights abuses worldwide. Please reach out to her if you have any questions or concerns about this post: stanzzz@sas.upenn.edu

Currently a senior at the University of Pennsylvania interested in Data Analytics and Strategy

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