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INSTRAW NEWS. 1995; (22):12-4.Whereas international conventions and national laws provide equal opportunities for women in employment, the reality of women's lives keeps a disproportionate number of women unemployed, underemployed, and living in poverty. The UN itself, which officially is working toward equity among its employees, has a staff composed of just 32.6% women, and women comprise only 10.5% of the top end of the hierarchy. In areas where women's labor force participation has increased dramatically, women typically earn 30-40% less than men doing the same job or else their employment is limited to "traditional female" service positions. The fact that women and girls have received an inadequate education makes it extremely difficult to break the barriers of discrimination in developing countries. The empowerment of women will break the education barrier, and, when that falls, many other barriers will follow suit. Efforts are already underway to break structural barriers caused by economic and social policies. For example, a more flexible pattern of work has been proposed which will include the voluntary assumption of flexible hours, job-sharing, and part-time work. The concept of work is also being broadened to include the important human services that women traditionally provide on a volunteer basis. This will lead to a valuation of women's contribution to society which can be added to calculations of gross domestic product. Women also need protection as they attempt to eke out a living in the informal sector which has been the traditional avenue for women to earn money. This sector is not protected by law and is subject to extortion by officials and by male competitors. A variety of measures is under consideration to increase the protection of informal sector workers. Women also need protection in the conventional work place, especially as they enter fields traditionally reserved for men. These questions are important even in the context of global unemployment because these issues must be addressed or their resolution to women's disadvantage will gain the mantle of tradition.