A "subtle revolution" in the role of women is taking place in Latin America, symbolized by greater job opportunities and benefits of higher education, according to the annual report of the Inter-American Development Bank.
A separate chapter on the progress of women--the first ever for the bank--also notes a close correlation between increased educational opportunity for women in Latin America and a decline in the fertility rate. By the end of the century, the levels of fertility in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago will have dropped to roughly the same levels as in the United States and Canada, the report says.
The projected declines in fertility imply increased participation by women in the work force above the dramatic gains that already have taken place. However, there is a long way to go because, except for the Caribbean, participation in the labor force by women in Latin America has been much lower than in other regions in the world.
For example, even in temperate zones of South America, only 15 1/2 percent of jobs were held by women in 1975 compared with an average of 25.6 percent for all less-developed regions, 34 percent in the rich world, and 28.1 percent for the whole world.
According to the report, the female labor force will grow annually at 3 1/2 percent, or faster than the male labor force, between now and the end of the century, more than doubling the number of women workers from 23 million in 1975 to more than 55 million by the year 2,000.
The "revolution" in the role of women is taking place in every sphere of economic activity, the report says.
"In some areas, the change is slow and muted, while in others it is rapid and highly visible," the report continues. "While it may be that much of this transformation is no change at all, but rather a new perception of the role of women, all the evidence points to a genuine structural modification in the way in which women participate in economic activities and in society in general."
One important aspect of the changing role of women is that they increasingly are becoming heads of households throughout Latin America. The report says that in the Commonwealth Caribbean area 35 percent of all heads of households are women, and that this figure reaches 45 percent in the urban slum areas of Brazil, Venezuela, El Salvador and Honduras.