Five hundred women union representatives from around the world will meet in Melbourne next week for the international union movements global womens conference.

New Zealands Prime Minister Helen Clark will deliver the keynote address at the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions 8th Womens Conference when it opens next Tuesday (February 18).

The ACTU is hosting the four-day conference, which aims to develop plans to improve the economic situation of women around the world.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the conference would provide an exciting opportunity for Australians to contribute to the international debate on improving womens position in the global economy.

“Australian women share the concerns of working women internationally for the security of their jobs and incomes, freedom from discrimination and the ability to balance their work and family lives,” Ms Burrow said.

“Despite large increases in the participation of women in paid work in almost every country over the last two decades, women still do about two-thirds of the worlds work for only 5% of the income.

“Women are the hardest hit by globalisation through unfair trading practices, exploitative labour conditions and the erosion of public services through privatisation and international debt servicing.

“Working women are over-represented in insecure, low-paid jobs in the informal economy, without the protection of basic labour standards.”

Ms Burrow said the ICFTU conference would examine the role of union organisations in delivering practical improvements for working women through local, national and international action.