1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World (Chinese edition)


From Chapter 4 – Consolidating women's gains: The need for a broader policy agenda

The preceding chapters underscore that neoliberal policies and globalization produce contradictory effects on individual well-being. While under current rules of liberalization, capital becomes increasingly less encumbered by national rules and constraints, there are contradictory effects on productivity growth and standards of living. Although competition might stimulate productivity, this is not guaranteed since increased firm bargaining power can allow firms to rely on low wages to reduce costs instead of embarking on innovation. Furthermore the public sector’s ability to manage the process of growth and development can become more limited. In this process, women can benefit from employment possibilities that heretofore had not existed, but at the same time they are confronted with a macroeconomic environment that is more volatile than before, and there is little social protection. How have gender gaps in well-being changed during the era of liberalization and outward-oriented growth? Further, do those countries that grow more rapidly do better in closing gender gaps?

To answer these questions requires a method of evaluating gendered well-being. Measures of average income are inadequate because they most often use the household as the unit of analysis, and assume equal sharing of household resources between males and females; they are not therefore a good measure for tracking changes in women’s access to household income. Furthermore, macroeconomic aggregates such as gross domestic product per capita do not take into account unpaid labour, which is largely undertaken by women. In any case well-being is more extensive than can be measured by a money metric. These concerns have resulted in a profound transformation in the way that gendered well-being is conceptualized.

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