UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The global financial and economic crisis hit women harder than men in the job market - and no improvement is likely in the coming years, the U.N. labor agency said in a new report.
The International Labor Organization said the gap between unemployed women and men rose in 2012, destroying 13 million jobs for women.
Looking ahead, the Geneva-based organization wasn't optimistic of a quick recovery.
The ILO's Global Employment Trends for Women 2012, circulated here on Friday, said projections show no significant reduction in female unemployment expected "even by 2017."
Michelle Bachelet, executive director of UN Women which contributed to the report, said that "while women worldwide contribute to the economy and its productivity, they continue to face many barriers that prevent them from realizing their full economic potential."
"This is not only holding back women; it is holding back economic performance and growth," she said. "Guaranteeing equal opportunities for women and men is not just the right thing to do, it's smart economics."
According to the report, between 2002 and 2007 there was a 0.5 percent gender gap in unemployment: The female unemployment rate was higher at 5.8 percent compared to male unemployment at 5.3 percent.
The global financial crisis raised this gender gap to 0.7 percent, which amounts to 13 million jobs lost for women, it said.
"The crisis appears to have worsened gender gaps in unemployment across all regions, regardless of whether they were on the front lines of the crisis like the advanced economies, or a degree removed like Asia and Africa," the report said.
It said women also suffer from a difference in the quality of employment in comparison to men.
The report calls for an expansion of social protection measures to reduce women's vulnerabilities, investment in skills and education, and policies to promote access to employment.
The ILO's executive-director for employment, Jose Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, said "policies to reduce gender gaps can significantly improve economic growth and standards of living, and in developing countries can be a major contribution to poverty reduction."