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Young Women's Life Experiences Improve With Full-Time Jobs

Young Women's Life Experiences Improve With Full-Time Jobs

by Ben Ryan
Chart: data points are described in article

This article is Gallup's second contribution to the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Women at Work Centenary Initiative on the work needs and aspirations of women around the world, aiming to bring fresh insights and explore interesting findings that warrant further analysis. The collaboration will result in a joint Gallup-ILO report that will also point to policy directions, to be launched on International Women's Day in March 2017.

Finding decent work can be a life-changing experience. Gallup research shows worldwide, men and women tend to rate their lives and many of their experiences better when they have full-time work. This has important implications for the world's young people -- more than 73 million of whom are looking for jobs -- and particularly for young women, who are more likely than young men to be out of the workforce.

"We know that investing today in the employment of young people means investing in the present and future of our societies. Sustainable development needs to be about the quantity and quality of jobs. In a world of work undergoing profound changes, our challenge is to continuously find new and innovative solutions as we look into the future of work," Guy Ryder, the ILO Director-General, remarked in early June at the World of Work Summit, which focused on how to shape the future of work for youth.

In addition to measuring life evaluations, Gallup measured positive and negative experiences in 150 countries from 2014 to 2015. Gallup asked people whether they experienced a lot of enjoyment, laughed or smiled a lot, felt well-rested, were treated with respect and whether they learned or did something interesting the day before, and compiled the "yes" results into a Positive Experience Index score. Similarly, Gallup measured negative experiences by asking people whether they experienced a lot of stress, sadness, anger, physical pain and worry the previous day, and compiled these into a Negative Experience Index score. These index scores indicate how much a respondent is having either positive or negative experiences; thus higher Positive Experience Index scores are better, while lower Negative Experience Index scores are better.

Among those aged 18 to 29, women and men who are out of the workforce have the lowest Negative Experience Index scores. However, this group includes those who are enrolled in school, which may help explain these lower negative scores. As men and women get older, this "advantage" from being out of the workforce, compared with full-time employment, disappears, with the gap virtually gone by the late 20s.

Negative Experience Index Scores, 18- to 29-year-olds by Sex and Employment Status
  Men Women Overall Gender Gap
Employed full time for an employer 24 24 24 -
Employed full time for self 24 24 24 -
Employed part time, do not want full time 23 28 25 5
Unemployed 30 32 31 2
Employed part time, want full time 27 31 29 4
Out of workforce 21 23 22 2
The Gallup Good Jobs rate (GGJ), or full-time employment for an employer, tracks the percentage of adults, aged 15 and older, who work for an employer full time -- at least 30 hours per week. Gallup's definition of part-time work covers both employees and self-employed individuals who work less than 30 hours a week. Large-scale comparisons of country-level Gallup measures of employment to population and unemployment with the ILO equivalents show high, though imperfect, correlations. These are generally within five percentage points, which is close to the margin of error for most country-level Gallup surveys in most years. Differing definitions of "working age," what exactly constitutes "unemployment," and particular exclusions (e.g., whether or not to include active duty military, urban/rural coverage, or migrant labour) are contributing factors.

Those with the next-lowest negative experience scores are those with full-time jobs. This group also shows no gender gap in negative experiences, unlike other employment categories. Women in this age group who work part-time jobs (either by choice or despite wanting full-time work) score four or more points higher than men who work part time on Gallup's Negative Experience Index. In other words, women who work part time are less happy than women who are working full time.

As more thought leaders turn to measuring happiness as an organizing principle for governance and policymaking, this measurement is revealing young people's aspirations. The generation of millennials has attitudes and preferences that may profoundly reshape workplaces and society. They are highly connected through technology, transforming how they interact and work. They also aspire to high levels of well-being, purposeful lives and good jobs that engage them.

Globally, women overall score 70 on Gallup's Positive Experience Index, while men score 71. However, on Gallup's global Negative Experience Index, women score 28 -- three points higher than men, at 25. Among those younger than age 30, Negative Experience Index scores were lower and Positive Experience Index scores were higher for both sexes. Additionally, women in this age group cut their lead relative to men to only one point on the Negative Experience Index and just overtook men -- by one point -- on the Positive Experience Index.

Part Time, Underemployed Have More Negative Experiences

For those between the ages of 18 and 29, worry and stress are the most common negative experiences reported, with almost one in three young adults reporting experiencing a lot of either the previous day (32% each). These were also the only negative experiences that were just as or more common among young women employed full time for an employer as among those in other employment categories. Young adults working part time or who were underemployed were most likely to report every other negative experience.

"Did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday?"
Among 18- to 29-year-olds, by sex and employment status
  Employed FT for an employer Employed FT for self Employed PT, do not want FT Unemployed
Physical Pain  
Men 19% 21% 18% 22%
Women 15% 21% 23% 26%
Gender Gap (pct. pts.) -4 - 5 4
Men 30% 30% 30% 43%
Women 31% 32% 36% 44%
Gender Gap (pct. pts.) 1 2 6 1
Men 16% 19% 17% 24%
Women 16% 16% 20% 29%
Gender Gap (pct. pts.) - -3 3 5
Men 34% 32% 32% 37%
Women 41% 32% 34% 37%
Gender Gap (pct. pts.) 7 - 2 -
Men 19% 20% 17% 23%
Women 18% 21% 24% 24%
Gender Gap (pct. pts.) -1 1 7 1
Gallup World Poll, 2014-2015


Women between the ages of 18 and 29 who are working part time are much more likely than men in this age group to report virtually every type of negative experience, but especially "worry." Women who work part time but want full-time work are 12 percentage points more likely than men to report feeling a lot of worry during the previous day, while the gap among those who do not want full-time work is six points.

Of all the negative experiences asked about, young unemployed women were most likely to report worry (44%) and stress (37%) , but these women differed most from comparable men in terms of physical pain and sadness -- 26% vs. 22% and 29% vs. 24%, respectively. By contrast, women who were employed full time for an employer were four points less likely than men to report experiencing physical pain during the previous day, but seven points more likely to experience stress.

Education Helps Close Life Experience Gender Gap

The more educated a young woman is, the lower her Negative Experience Index score, regardless of employment status. The same is not true for men; while more educated men with full-time jobs for an employer or who are out of the workforce have lower Negative Experience scores, the relationship for those working part time or those who are unemployed is more complicated. However, the net result, again, is that more education reduces the gender gap in life experiences among young adults, such that men and women with tertiary education show no difference in negative experience scores.

While young men and women out of the workforce report even lower negative experience scores than those who are full-time employed, this is less true for young women, which may be related to young women's lower levels of education worldwide. While only 18% of young men out of the workforce have a primary education or less, the same is true for 37% of women in the same category, and lower levels of education are strongly correlated with more negative life experiences. Women also face higher levels of discrimination in entering the workforce.

Negative Experience Index Scores, 18- to 29-year-olds by Sex, Education and Employment Status
  Employed FT for an employer Employed FT for self Employed PT, do not want FT Unemployed
Primary or less  
Men 26 24 21 36
Women 29 24 32 40
Secondary to three year tertiary  
Men 23 24 24 27
Women 23 24 26 30
Tertiary complete  
Men 23 26 19 31
Women 23 23 21 30
Gallup World Poll, 2014-2015


Naturally, there are also regional effects that affect these life experience patterns, but they are not necessarily what one might expect. For example, while young women are much more likely to be employed full time for an employer in regions such as the European Union or East Asia -- regions with relatively low negative experience scores overall -- women consistently exceed men in reporting negative experiences. Among the full-time self-employed, young women had slightly fewer negative experiences in the European Union or Southeast Asia and slightly more in East Asia and CIS countries other than the Russian Federation.

In regions where younger women are much less likely to be employed full time for an employer, such as South Asia and North Africa, these women report fewer negative experiences than men do. (In the regions of Latin American, the Caribbean, Turkey and Iran, women do score significantly higher on the Negative Experiences Index than men in all employment categories.)

Negative Experience Index Scores, 18- to 29-year-olds Employed Full Time for an Employer, by Sex and Region
  Men Women Gender Gap
European Union 23 25 2
Non-EU Europe 24 23 -1
Commonwealth of Independent States  
Russian Federation 8 15 7
Other CIS countries 14 16 2
Australia-New Zealand * * *
Southeast Asia 23 24 1
South Asia 28 21 -7
East Asia 17 19 2
Latin America and the Caribbean 23 33 10
Northern America * * *
Sub-Saharan Africa 27 27 -
Middle East and North Africa  
Levant 40 43 3
North Africa and Yemen 29 27 -2
GCC 33 39 6
Turkey and Iran 36 48 12
Total 24 24 -
* Insufficient sample size for in-depth analysis
Gallup World Poll, 2014-2015



The importance of decent jobs for both young men's and women's quality of life around the world is seen time and time again in Gallup's World Poll data and ILO research. "This research highlights the impact decent jobs can have on our societies, by helping young women have employment that leads to better life experiences -- benefits that are shared with everyone they touch, from their families to their communities," said Jane Miller, Chief Operating Officer at Gallup.

In March, Gallup reported on how life evaluations improve with full-time jobs, especially for women. Similarly, this research finds that reported life experiences for young women also improve with full-time employment. Despite women's higher life evaluation, they report more negative life experiences than their male counterparts, even among those 18-29 years old. However, when engaged in full-time employment, this gender gap finally disappears.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in 150 countries, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2014 and 2015. Global and regional aggregates were calculated by projection weighting according to population size, and figures are representative of the entire adult populations per region for the period of 2014-2015.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error ranged from ±2.1 percentage points to ±5.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For the purposes of this article, the standard World Poll region of the Middle East and North Africa was divided into four subgroups based on broad social and economic differences between the countries in this region. The Levant consists of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries consist of Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Yemen was grouped with the North African Arab countries of Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan. Israel was analyzed with non-EU Europe, and Iran and Turkey were analyzed together. The number of countries covered, methods and definitions used by Gallup differ from ILO's countries and definitions and hence results are not always directly comparable.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

Visit the ILO webpage to download publication Women at Work Trends 2016.

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