- Property rights and access to resources
- Women and agriculture
- Labour market participation
- Gender and the care economy
- Women’s entrepreneurship
- The gendered impact of financial and food crises
- Gender and migration
- Further resources
The literature on gender and economic rights focuses almost exclusively on the link between women’s economic rights and women’s empowerment. It highlights women’s often invisible labour, emphasising contributing factors including women’s time use, social norms, lack of access to and control over resources and jobs, and gender inequitable laws. Access to economic resources, and microfinance in particular, has come to be seen as an important tool for women’s empowerment by providing economic resources that can improve their bargaining position in the household. By strengthening their bargaining position and building women’s confidence, it is assumed that women’s position in the community will be improved and their participation in community affairs and decision-making will increase.
Women’s participation in the labour market has increased significantly over the last twenty years. It varies significantly across developing regions from a high of 64% in East Asia and the Pacific to a low of 26% in the Middle East (WDR 2012). While gender patterns in labour markets are changing, women’s labour is still often confined to the informal sector or low wage industries. The increase in women’s employment in sectors previously dominated by men is in some cases referred to as the ‘feminisation of labour’. The term has also come to reflect the informalisation of paid work and the lower salaries, poor working conditions, and more ‘flexible’ working arrangements that can be offered to women in order to contribute to more competitive pricing among companies. The informal sector is generally unregulated and thus without standards for minimum wage, working conditions, insurance or social protection mechanisms to address illness or inability to continue work.
Women also contribute to economies through their work in caring for families. However, this is often not acknowledged or reflected in national economies, despite lobbying by women’s organisations.
Both push and pull factors have contributed to women increasingly taking up employment. In the Middle East for example, women’s employment has been actively encouraged by governments, in order to reduce reliance on international labour migrants. Women’s employment has also contributed to job creation, especially in the domestic sphere, including live-in domestic workers, nannies, and cleaners. The increased availability of (usually female) domestic workers has further freed up other women to take up employment outside the household, although in some cases this has led to migration away from their families.
Kabeer, N., Mahmud, S. and Tasneem, S. (2011). ‘Does Paid Work Provide a Pathway to Women’s Empowerment? Empirical Findings from Bangladesh’, Working Paper 375, IDS, Brighton
This paper uses a combination of survey data and qualitative interviews to explore the impact of paid work on various indicators of women’s empowerment, ranging from shifts in intra-household decision-making processes to women’s participation in public life. It finds that forms of work that offer regular and relatively independent incomes hold the greatest transformative potential.
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DAC Network on Gender Equality. (2011). ‘Women’s Economic Empowerment: Issues Paper’, OECD Publishing, Paris
This paper highlights the need for innovative approaches and partnerships to scale up women’s economic empowerment. Achieving women’s economic empowerment will take sound public policies, a holistic approach and long-term commitment from all development actors. It is important to ‘start with women’ by integrating gender-specific perspectives into policy and programme design. More equitable access to assets and services – land, water, infrastructure, technology, innovation and credit – will strengthen women’s rights, increase agricultural productivity and promote economic growth.
Chaaban, J. and Cunningham, W. (2011). ‘Measuring the Economic Gain of Investing in Girls: The Girl Effect Dividend’, Policy Research Working Paper 5753, World Bank, Washington DC
This paper estimates the costs incurred by societies as a result of the social exclusion of adolescent girls. It explores the potential increases in national income that could be gained by addressing early school dropout, teenage pregnancy and joblessness. It finds that marginal investments in girls can have a substantial impact on GDP growth.
GrOW. (2013). Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women. Literature Review to inform the DFID-IDRC-Hewlett Foundation Research Program on Women’s Economic Empowerment, Gencder Equality, and Growth in Low-Income Countries.
This is a background paper for a new research programme on women’s economic empowerment. It is a comprehensive literature review on the state of the field. Section 1 briefly discusses the global evidence on existing gender disparities in employment, wages, business opportunities, and the care economy. Sections 2, 3 and 4 describe the existing knowledge in the programme’s central themes – constraints to women’s economic empowerment, and the links between economic empowerment and growth – followed by the research gaps and questions.
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Access to resources and stable property rights is highly gendered in many parts of the world. Women and girls in particular suffer from inequitable land rights and experience restricted access to resources and inheritance. Boys and men can also be denied access, such as when the first son inherits more than the second or third son. Rights to resources may also affect ability to access other resources or services. For example, a woman’s lack of land ownership or rights may inhibit her ability to access credit, as land is often used as collateral. Achieving more equitable access to resources offers significant opportunities both for economic growth and women’s empowerment.
Various programmes to increase access to financial services have been widely used to offer opportunities to poor women and men. While results are mixed in terms of success, evaluations of gendered targeting of micro-financial services have shown that male beneficiaries contribute less to household well-being and food security (Mayoux, and Hartl, 2009). While microcredit schemes have the potential to contribute to women’s small scale income generating activities and increased confidence, they can also contribute to indebtedness and further vulnerability. They also tend to only reach the middle poor, not the very poorest.
While some studies have found that women who start their own business, gain employment, or own property or land experience a lower incidence of domestic violence, other studies show a higher incidence. This is particularly the case in culturally conservative settings, and reflects the impact of shifting power dynamics. Programmes aimed at empowering women economically, including microcredit schemes, therefore need to consider how best to mitigate negative impact, for example, by including violence prevention initiatives.
Women’s domestic roles often make them disproportionate users of natural resources. Wells set up far from homes can contribute to women’s and girls’ increased workload. Forest conservation projects can limit women’s access to forest products and impact negatively on their survival strategies. Donors need to ensure women’s participation in programme design.
Mayoux, L., and Hartl, M. (2009). ‘Gender and Rural Microfinance: Reaching and Empowering Women: A Guide for Practitioners’, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Rome
This toolkit describes how to design financial products which will have some impact on women’s empowerment and gender equality. It focuses on rural areas and poverty reduction, targeting women as an emerging market, and as a means to reduce poverty and achieve the MDGs. The guide is intended as an overview of gender issues for rural finance practitioners.
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Monson, R. (2010). ‘Negotiating Land Tenure: Women, Men and the Transformation of Land Tenure in Solomon Islands’, International Development Law Organization, Rome
This article provides a case study on women’s access to property and land rights. It specifically explores the interaction between state and customary legal systems in one rural and one peri-urban site. Land ownership is characterised by a complex interaction of both systems, and both discriminate against women.
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Vernooy, R (edi). (2006). ‘Social and Gender Analysis in Natural Resource Management: Learning Studies and Lessons from Asia’, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa
This edited book contains articles on different aspects of social and gender analysis in South and South-East Asia. There are three synthesis chapters and six case studies. The case studies show the importance of local history and context.
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Hallward-Driemeier, M. and Hasan, T. (2012). Empowering Women: Legal Rights and Economic Opportunities in Africa. Africa development forum series. Washington DC: Agence Française de Développement and the World Bank
This World Bank publication is the first study to look systematically across Sub-Saharan Africa to examine the impacts of property rights on women’s economic empowerment. The book examines family, inheritance, and land laws. It surveys constitutions and statutes in all 47 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to document where gender gaps in these laws impinge on women’s legal capacity, property rights, or both. The book also looks at some labour law issues, such as restrictions on the types of industries or hours of work in which women may engage and provisions for equal pay for work of equal value.
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The Women’s World Banking website provides a range of publications and research on gender and microfinance.
Women’s contribution to agriculture is often less visible than that of men. Men are more likely than women to own land, access credit and fertilisers to increase agricultural output, and to sell high value agricultural produce. Women, on the other hand, tend to provide high levels of unpaid labour and grow less profitable crops or crops for household use. Men’s more numerous options and more formal role in agriculture can be attributed to the social norms dictating formal work as men’s domain, which facilitates their access to information, credit and technologies. Because of these norms, female-headed households often face particular challenges in rural settings.
Despite these constraints, women contribute substantially to food production worldwide. They often grow the majority of staple crops for domestic consumption and petty trading, and raise chickens and other smaller animals. Ensuring women’s access to equal education and resources, such as agricultural extension, credit, and technological inputs could therefore unlock a huge potential for agricultural growth and effectiveness. Similarly, strengthening women’s opportunities and business skills to access agricultural markets is important. Recent research has particularly emphasised the potential for educating and empowering adolescent girls and the contribution that they make to agriculture and related domestic work (Bertini, 2011).
Bertini, C. (2011). ‘Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies’, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs: Chicago
This report finds that women and girls living in rural areas of the developing world play a vital yet unrecognised role as agricultural producers and hold the potential to be agents of food and nutritional security and economic growth. It argues for a special focus on rural adolescent girls, integrated into a well-supported rural economic development strategy.
World Bank. (2009). ‘Gender in Agriculture Source Book’, World Bank/FAO/IFAD, Washington DC
This book presents analyses of issues that affect agriculture’s role as a source of economic development, rural livelihoods, and environmental services, with practical application. It contains 14 comprehensive modules on various aspects of gender in agriculture. The book describes recent experiences of investing in agriculture for poverty reduction with a gender lens, and reviews women’s empowerment and gender equality.
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Nagel Sørensen, P. (2013).Lessons Learned Evaluation of Norway’s Bilateral Agricultural Support to Food Security – Why Women Farmers are Left out of Programs. Norad Report 13/2013. Norad.
This internal evaluation draws out the gender impacts and outcomes of Norway’s Bilateral Agricultural Support to Food Security. It reviews 19 country-level programmes. It recommends that staff have more gender training, and that gender analyses are conducted as standard in agricultural programmes. Women’s rights and access should be promoted in programmes.
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The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI)
The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) measures the empowerment, agency, and inclusion of women in the agricultural sector. The first subindex assesses empowerment of women in five domains: (1) decisions about agricultural production, (2) access to and decision-making power about productive resources, (3) control of use of income, (4) leadership in the community, and (5) time allocation. The second subindex measures the percentage of women whose achievements are at least as high as men in their households and, for women lacking parity, the relative empowerment gap with respect to the male in their household.
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Men’s higher participation in the formal labour market compared with that of women can be explained through a combination of: i) differences in time use between men and women; ii) gendered differences in access to productive inputs; iii) different levels of education; (iv) gender stereotyping in vocational and skills training and mismatches with labour market demand; and v) gendered outcomes of institutional and market failures. Domestic responsibilities also act as a barrier to women’s equal participation in the labour force.
There are also gendered differences in jobs taken up by men and women. While men are more likely to be found in the construction industry and in managerial positions, women’s employment tends to be confined to traditionally feminine jobs such as care, low skilled manufacturing, and lower administrative positions. Women’s income earning activities are also often confined to the informal sector, including domestic work, petty trading and home-based work.
Globally, there has been a shift towards the ‘feminisation’ of the labour market. This suggests both an increase in women’s participation in paid employment, and the labour market becoming more ‘flexible’. This change has impacted on both men’s and women’s employment and employment conditions. Workers now face decreased job securities with subcontracting, home-based work and part-time work increasingly on offer.
The global economy is characterised by high unemployment rates for both young men and women. While the percentage of unemployment is higher among young women, more young men are affected as their labour market participation is higher. The longer that young people are without employment, the more difficult it becomes to reintegrate into the labour force, and discouraged youth are in danger of feeling useless and alienated from society. In cultures where income earning is seen as a prerequisite for marriage, male unemployment can be particularly frustrating for individuals. In severe cases, the presence of high numbers of unemployed men can lead to political instability, conflict and the radicalisation of unemployed youth.
World Bank. (2011). ‘Gender Differences in Employment and Why They Matter’, Chapter 5 in World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development, World Bank, Washington DC
This chapter looks beyond gender differences in labour market participation to gender differences in productivity and earnings across different sectors and jobs. It shows that, despite significant progress in female labour force participation over the past 25 years, pervasive and ongoing gender differences remain in productivity and earnings. It argues that the interaction of employment segregation by gender with gender differences in time use and access to inputs, and with market and institutional failures, traps women in low-paying jobs and low-productivity businesses. Breaking out of this productivity trap requires interventions that lift women’s time constraints, increase their access to productive inputs, and correct market and institutional failures.
World Bank. (2013). Gender at Work: A Companion to the World Development Report on Jobs. World Bank Group.
This report from the World Bank’s Gender and Development group is a companion to the WDR 2013 on jobs. Globally, fewer than half of women have jobs, compared to four-fifths of men. The paper looks at constraints and promising practices. It recommends investing more in women’s capabilities as well as removing structural barriers such as discriminatory laws, which are still very common. The report notes that since women face multiple constraints to jobs, starting early and extending throughout their lives, progressive, broad-based, and coordinated policy action is needed to close gender gaps. Common constraints include lack of mobility, time, and skills; exposure to violence; and the absence of basic legal rights.
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Jütting, J. and Morrisson, C. (2009). ‘Women, Bad Jobs, Rural Areas: What Can “SIGI” Tell Us?’, Paper presented at the FAO-IFAD-ILO Workshop on Gaps, trends and current research in gender dimensions of agricultural and rural employment: differentiated pathways out of poverty Rome, 31 March-2 April
This conference paper examines the increase in new jobs in rural areas of the world, suggesting that many of them are ‘bad’ jobs: insecure, low-paying, with no access to formal social security and limited social mobility. A large number of these jobs go to women. The paper uses the SIGI to show there is a causal relation between high gender discrimination and traditional agricultural sector.
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Lim, L. L. (2011). ‘Women and Labour Markets in Asia: Rebalancing for Gender Equality’, International Labour Organisation and Asian Development Bank
What lessons can be drawn from the from the 1997 Asian financial crisis? This paper puts forward suggestions for how to ‘build back better’ in terms of gender equality for economic growth. It provides an overview and trend analysis of available information on where and how women work, and under what conditions, before, during and after the 2008 crisis as well as in the recovery. It offers evidence-based policy recommendations on strategies to advance gender equality through addressing persistent gender labour market gaps. Its key messages are on the importance of directing policy towards the informal economy in the context of inclusive growth, underpinned by sufficient decent work opportunities.
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Corner, L. (2011). ‘Women and the Formal Economy’, A think piece commissioned by AusAID’s Office of Development Effectiveness
Why should Australia invest in the formal economy for gender equality?. This policy brief encourages improving women’s status in the formal economy as this may help women transition from informal work, and may have positive spillover effects. Formal work is possibly the most important route out of poverty and for women’s empowerment.
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Kabeer, N. (2012). Women’s Economic Empowerment and Inclusive Growth: Labour Markets and Enterprise Development. International Development Research Centre.
This review was conducted to inform a global new research initiative for DFID and IDRC. It concludes that there is strong evidence that gender equality can promote economic growth. Women’s access to employment and education opportunities reduces the likelihood of household poverty, and resources in women’s hands have a range of positive outcomes for human capital and capabilities within the household. Formal regular waged work has the greatest transformative potential for women, but this potential has remained limited because of the lack of decent jobs, and because of segmentation of labour markets. The paper also suggests that economic growth does not necessarily contribute to gender equality.
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Simmons-Benton, A., Heinzelman, J., & Sackett, J. (2012). Economic Empowerment Strategies for Afghan Women. USAID.
This report provides a case study of Kabul women’s opportunities for and constraints on participation in the economy. Afghan women face a number of serious challenges, including: mobility restrictions; inability to access resources; lack of support infrastructure; access to finance; and lack of family and societal support. The report recommends empowering both women and their environment by demonstrating successes; investing in education; creating women’s groups; supporting access to media and information.
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Mainstream economics has traditionally centred on the monetised aspects of the economy, neglecting areas of ‘social reproduction’ or ‘unpaid work’, which includes subsistence production and unpaid care. Unpaid care work includes ‘housework (meal preparation, cleaning) and care of persons (bathing a child, watching over a frail elderly person) carried out in homes and communities’ (UNRISD, 2010, p. 1).
Women carry out the vast majority of unpaid care work across all societies. Despite the economic and social value of such work and its contribution to well-being, it is not included in labour force surveys or in the calculation of GDP. It is estimated that the care economy could amount to between 10 per cent and 39 per cent of GDP (Budlender, 2008, cited in UNRISD, 2010). In some contexts, home-based care programmes have emerged where public health services have been inadequate to meet demand.
Policies need to acknowledge and address the care economy and provide support to care providers (whether paid or unpaid) to ensure that they have access to social rights and economic security. Given the predominance of women in this sector, such policies could help to improve gender equality and women’s economic and social security. To develop policies, an empirical foundation is needed to capture the extent of care work. Time use surveys, used increasingly in developing countries, can contribute to the gathering of such data. Recent research (Chopra, Kelbert, & Iyer, 2013) shows that unpaid care is largely invisible in social policy.
UNRISD. (2010). ‘Why Care Matters for Social Development’, Research and Policy Brief 9, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva
This brief summarises findings from the UNRISD project Political and Social Economy of Care. The project included six in-depth country studies from three regions: South Africa and Tanzania; Argentina and Nicaragua; and India and the Republic of Korea. Teams in each country researched four related issues: (i) economic, social and demographic change over the past 20 to 30 years; (ii) data from time use surveys; (iii) social and care policies and institutions; and (iv) selected groups of care workers (their wages, working conditions, and how they meet their own care needs and the care needs of their dependents). Japan and Switzerland were also studied to provide comparisons of care systems in two industrialized economies.
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Razavi, S. (2007). ‘The Political and Social Economy of Care in a Development Context: Conceptual Issues, Research Questions and Policy Options’, Gender and Development Programme Paper, no. 3, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva
Care is critical to wellbeing and to economic development. This paper traces the evolution of ideas in the area of gender and care, and analyses some of the main strands of thinking, including the very varied policies. It analyses the contribution of feminist economics, then gender analyses of welfare regimes. It highlights that policies should not reinforce care as ‘women’s work’. The paper finally asks about whether social policy can be redesigned to better support care needs.
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UNGA. (2013). Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human rights. UN Doc A/68/293.
This UN report, presented under the human rights strand of work, positions unpaid care work as a major human rights issue. The Special Rapporteur argues that heavy and unequal care responsibilities are a major barrier to gender equality and to women’s equal enjoyment of human rights. Therefore, the failure of states to adequately provide, fund, support and regulate care contradicts their human rights obligations, by creating and exacerbating inequalities and threatening women’s rights enjoyment. The report analyses the relationship between unpaid care and poverty, inequality and women’s human rights; clarifies the human rights obligations of states with regard to unpaid care; and finally provides recommendations to states on how to recognize, value, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work. Ultimately, it argues that state policies should position care as a social and collective responsibility, in particular through improving women’s access to public services, care services and infrastructure.
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Chopra, D., Kelbert, A., & Iyer, P. (2013). A Feminist Political Economy Analysis of Public Policies Related to Care: A Thematic Review.
How far is evidence on unpaid care work reflected in public policies? This paper reviews social protection and early childhood development policies in all LMICs for the last 20 years. The main findings are that unpaid care is largely invisible in public policy – only 25 out of 107 social protection policies and 41 out of 270 ECD policies expressed an intent to address unpaid care concerns, and among those that did recognise care, the main focus was on redistributing care responsibilities from the family to the state. This is based on recognition that women need to work outside the home in paid jobs. There are no social protection policies that aim to redistribute unpaid care work from women to men, and only two consider either providing support or reducing the drudgery of care. Among the ECD policies, support for carers in terms of better parenting is widespread, often acknowledging men’s role as fathers.
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Barker, G., Greene, M., Nascimento, M., Segundo, M., Ricardo, C., Taylor, A., Aguayo, F., Sadler, M., Das, A., Singh, S., Figueroa, J. G., Franzoni, J., Flores, N., Jewkes R., Morrell, R. and Kato, J. (2012). Men Who Care: A Multi-Country Qualitative Study of Men in Non Traditional Caregiving Roles. Washington, D.C.: International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Promundo.
The ‘Men Who Care’ study is a five-country qualitative study in Brazil, Chile, India, Mexico and South Africa. It explores issues of care work by listening to men who are involved in non-traditional forms of care work in the family and professional realms. The main findings are:
- In most cases care work seemed to be thrust upon men by life circumstances rather than an individual choice.
- Early childhood experiences worked in multiple and sometimes contrary directions in influencing men’s caregiving practices.
- Men’s relationships with partners (particularly the mothers of their children) greatly affected to what extent men participated in care work in the household.
- Many men who carried out care work sought to give it a traditional masculine meaning or make it fit within their self-image as traditional or hegemonic men.
- Men’s satisfaction with care work was varied; some men described great satisfaction derived from care work while others said they felt incomplete, depressed or undervalued.
Entrepreneurship is an area in which gender differences are substantial. Men dominate much of the investment and entrepreneurial activities, but regional variations exist. Women’s ownership of firms in developing regions, for example, range from a high of 24% in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to a low of 3% in South Asia (Simavi et al 2010).
Barriers faced by women include lower levels of education, social, cultural and religious constraints and norms, lack of capital, unequal legal status and less political influence. Even where the law and business procedures are gender neutral, in practice they may result in gender based outcomes to the detriment of women. For example, while the law may dictate that both women and men can register a business, cultural restrictions on women’s freedom of movement may restrict their ability to travel to the local government office to do so.
Women’s entrepreneurial activities are often confined to the informal sector, limiting expansion opportunities through restrictions on available credit. This also has the effect of underestimating women’s contributions to the economy, as these activities are not captured in formal statistics. While some argue that women’s entrepreneurship is likely to be a reaction to poverty and lack of formal employment opportunities, others argue that they offer great potential for poverty-reduction and national economic growth.
Tambunan, T. (2009). ‘Women Entrepreneurship in Asian Developing Countries: Their Development and Main Constraints’ in Journal of Development and Agricultural Economics, vol. 1, no. 2, pp 27-40
To what extent are women becoming entrepreneurs in Asian developing countries? This paper focuses on women entrepreneurs in small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It finds that the representation of women entrepreneurs is still relatively low, and most women entrepreneurs in SMEs are ‘forced entrepreneurs’ seeking better family incomes.
ILO. (2011). ‘Women’s Entrepreneurship Development in Vietnam: Learning from Good Practices’, ILO Project on Women’s Entreprenuership Development and Gender Equality (WEDGE), International Labour Organisation
What lessons can be learned from the experience of entrepreneurship development in Vietnam? This report argues that providing support through women’s groups and other collaboration groups helps to create an enabling environment for business development. This enables women to learn and share good experiences, thereby building links among individuals and groups, and bringing both individual and collective benefits. Nevertheless, the approach still requires improvement.
Simavi, S., Manuel, C. and Blackden, M. (2010). ‘Gender Dimensions of Investment Climate Reform: A Guide for Policy Makers and Practitioners’, World ank, Washington DC
Why is it important to include women in investment climate reform? This report provides thinking to solve common issues women entrepreneurs face in the investment climate area. It presents actionable, practical, replicable, and scalable tools. Specifically, the guide seeks to enable development practitioners and policy makers who are not gender specialists to (i) diagnose gender issues in an investment climate reform area, (ii) design practical solutions and recommendations to address gender constraints, and (iii) include effective monitoring and evaluation tools to oversee the implementation of those recommendations.
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Financial and food crises often have different effects on women and men, boys and girls, and can exacerbate existing inequalities even further. While different sections of society are impacted differently, the most vulnerable individuals tend to be found in the informal sector and in net food purchasing households (typically low-income urban households and resource-poor rural households).
Because of women’s high representation in households considered the poorest of the poor, they often spend a higher proportion of their income on food and are therefore especially vulnerable to fluctuations in food prices. Women are also particularly vulnerable to being laid off during times of hardship because of their concentration in low paid manufacturing and domestic work – industries often affected severely in global downturns.
The gendered effects of food price shocks on children and men are less well understood, although in some countries such as India higher malnutrition rates among girls have been recorded during crises. Men, as the breadwinners, are also less likely than women to lose their jobs, as it is assumed that this will have a more devastating impact on household wellbeing.
Holmes, R., Jones, N. and Marsden, H. (2009). ‘Gender Vulnerabilities, Food Price Shocks and Social Protection Responses’, ODI Background Note, Overseas Development Institute, London
This study argues that women are bearing a disproportionate share of the burden of the 2008 food price crisis, both as producers and consumers. The impacts of the crisis have changed and/or magnified pre-existing vulnerabilities and shaped the range of coping strategies available to men, women and children. International and national responses have not given sufficient consideration to gender dynamics. Greater attention needs to be paid to intra-household gender dynamics, women’s time poverty and strengthening opportunities for women’s voice and agency in food security policy debates.
Horn, Z. E. (2009). ‘No Cushion to Fall Back On – The Global Economic Crisis and Informal Workers’, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)
What was the impact of the financial crisis on urban informal workers, many of whom are women? This paper provides information on home-based workers, street vendors, and waste pickers. These are often the first to be laid off and face increased competition as more people enter the informal economy. These three groups experienced a sharp drop in demand for their services. They have no economic cushion to fall back on and can be forced into risky jobs and/or reduce their consumption.
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Kumar, N., & Quisumbing, A. R. (2013). Gendered Impacts of the 2007–2008 Food Price Crisis: Evidence Using Panel Data from Rural Ethiopia. Food Policy, 38, 11-22.
This peer-reviewed journal article quantitatively examines the impact of the food price crisis on female-headed households in Ethiopia. It finds that FHH are more vulnerable to food price changes and are more likely to have experienced a food price shock in 2007–2008. Because female-headed households are also resource poor and have a larger food gap compared with male-headed households, they cope by cutting back on the number of meals they provide their households during good months and eating less preferred foods in general.
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Both men and women have increasingly turned to internal and international migration to increase their economic opportunities. Labour migration is mainly taken up by low skilled individuals in gender-specific jobs, such as domestic work, nursing and construction. Overseas migration offers many low-skilled individuals significant salary improvements for the same or lower-skilled jobs.
Labour migration has the potential to offer benefits in terms of women’s empowerment through the salaries female migrants receive and the improved confidence they can acquire. Remittances sent by overseas migrants also have the potential to contribute to improved economic opportunities for the household, for example children’s school fees, daily consumables and petty entrepreneurial activities. Research to date indicates that women tend to remit a larger percentage of their salaries than men and are more likely to spend this money on the wellbeing of the children. However, evidence is weak on whether remittances lead to sustainable income generating activities and economic growth, or if it simply fosters a dependence on foreign remittance flows.
Labour migration can also have far reaching adverse household and societal impacts, however, including the possibility of marriage breakdown and negative impact on children left behind who may feel abandoned. In addition, girls and boys may migrate at young ages to provide incomes for their families. Labour migration also poses significant risks for the individuals concerned, including trafficking, labour exploitation, and different types of abuse. Many of the jobs taken up by labour migrants offer limited workplace protection; live-in domestic workers have been identified as particularly vulnerable.
Jolly, S. with Reeves, H.(2005). ‘Gender and Migration: Overview Report’, BRIDGE, IDS, Brighton
How does gender affect migration? This comprehensive report analyses gender and migration, both internal and international, forced and voluntary migration. Gender roles, relations and inequalities affect who migrates and why, how the decision is made, the impacts on migrants themselves, on sending areas and on receiving areas. Migration can either improve or reduce gender equality. Migration is on the margins of policy and generally considered an issue for the state, not for other development actors. This report recommends a shift to a gendered human rights approach.
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Bhadra, C. (2007). ‘International Labour Migration of Nepalese Women: The Impact of their Remittances on Poverty Reduction’, Working paper series, no. 44, Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade
What impact do remittances from women migrant workers have on poverty reduction in Nepal? This article finds that remittances play an important role in poverty reduction but that female migration can also involve significant human costs. It argues that the Nepali state and international development agencies should pay greater attention to women’s migration and its links to trade and development. Private companies and governments should work to improve women’s access to financial services.
Benería, L., Diana Deere, C., & Kabeer, N. (2012). Gender and International Migration: Globalization, Development, and Governance. Feminist Economics, 18(2), 1-33.
This peer-reviewed academic article examines the connections between gender and international migration around three themes: globalization, national economic development, and governance. First, it shows how gender is central to understanding migration: gender analysis makes visible the increasing commodification of care work on a global scale and highlights how the organization of families is changing. Second, the article shows how migration contributes to or hinders economic development, especially through women’s remittances. Finally, it shows that female migrants are more likely than men to be legally and socially unprotected in the destination country, and how gender affects citizenship and governance.
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For more information and resources on trafficking, see the chapter on ‘Gender-based violence’.
For more discussion and resources on empowerment, see the chapter on social and economic empowerment in the Empowerment and Accountability Topic Guide. See also:
- Gender and empowerment on Eldis
- Gender, work and employment on Eldis
- Donor Committee for Enterprise Development
- ILO resources on women’s entrepreneurship development
- Indicators on laws and regulations affecting women’s prospects as entrepreneurs and employees, the World Bank
- Adolescent Girls Initiative, the World Bank