1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Gender and Development

Labour Markets and Social Policy: Gendered Connections

  • Project from: 2011 to 2013

Over the past three decades, women’s labour force participation rates have increased, not only in high-income OECD countries, but also in many developing ones. Participation in the paid labour market has expanded options for some women, with empowering implications in some spheres. However, increased participation of women in the labour force is not a straightforward story of "progress". The narrowing of the gender gap in labour force participation rates has not led to commensurate gender equality in pay and status. Women continue to be overrepresented in part-time employment vis-à-vis men in most OECD countries, as well as being overrepresented in informal employment compared to men in most developing regions.

Labour market segregation and gender gaps in pay persist in most contexts and cannot be explained by educational differences. The social construction of female occupations as lower-status, lower-skilled and lower-earning plays a large part in reproducing such inequalities, especially in the absence of countervailing regulatory efforts to increase the pay and status of women’s work. Macro-level policies (fiscal, monetary, trade, investment) associated with the globalization agenda have also played an important part in dampening employment generation and increasing its informality, thereby contributing to livelihood insecurity and inequality. There is also a persistent disconnect between women’s increased engagement in paid work, and their limited and tenuous access to social security provisions.


Gendered Impacts of Globalization: Employment and Social Protection
Shahra Razavi, Camilia Arza, Elissa Braunstein, Sarah Cook and Kristine Goulding

The last three decades have seen remarkable changes in economic structures and policies both within and across countries, loosely captured by the term globalization. This paper reviews evidence on how key aspects of globalization processes have impacted the real economy, in terms of employment and social conditions of work for women and men across a wide range of countries. More specifically the paper explores the following issues: (i) how globalization affects access to employment and employment outcomes by gender, (ii) the constraints to improved economic and social outcomes for women, (iii) the effectiveness and limitations of policies and practices designed to overcome constraints and improve women’s labour market outcomes, and (iv) identify evidence gaps and critical issues for further research, and key recommendations for policy and practice.

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Neoliberal Development Macroeconomics: A Consideration of its Gendered Employment Effects
Elissa Braunstein

This paper reviews the primarily empirical research on the employment impacts of the macroeconomic policy environment, with a particular focus on women’s employment. It begins by briefly characterizing the terrain of neoliberal development macroeconomic theory and policy, both of which are at the heart of the opportunities and constraints that emerging and developing economies face today. It also emphasizes those aspects that are central to employment issues, including: (i) the slowdown in economic growth and the decline in the responsiveness of employment to growth; (ii) trade and investment liberalization and its impact on employment; (iii) informalization and its relationship to liberalization and macroeconomic performance; (iv) the impact of inflation targeting on employment; (v) the impact of the increasing frequency of crisis and volatility on growth and employment; and (vi) the public sector.

Pension Reforms and Gender Equality in Latin America
Camila Arza

This paper explores the gendered nature of recent pension reforms in Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. It evaluates the sources of gender inequality in old-age protection and the way in which recent pension reforms in Latin America have addressed some of the gender biases in previous systems. It reviews the features of the labour market and of the pension system which can affect pension coverage and benefits for men and women. It also studies the gender equality implications of contributory systems and of individual pension accounts in Latin America.

The paper, "Gendered Impacts of Globalization: Employment and Social Protection", and the two background papers, "Neoliberal Development Macroeconomics: A Consideration of its Gendered Employment Effects" and "Pension Reforms and Gender Equality in Latin America" were commissioned by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) with the aim of feeding into the 2012 World Development Report on gender, and informing DFID’s own programming.

Welfare Regimes and Social Policies: A Review of the Role of Labour and Employment
James Heinz and Francie Lund

What are the changing structures of employment, and what are the implications of this for social policy? This paper takes a broad, structural framework, one that attempts to take into account important shifts in the global economy which have redefined many of the standard assumptions about economic development, employment, and social policy.
This paper was funded by Fundación Carolina

Gender Patterns and Value of Unpaid Work: Findings from China’s First Large-Scale Time Use Survey
Xiao-Yuan Dong and Xinli An

This paper examines unpaid work using data from China’s first large-scale time use survey conducted in 2008. It documents the gender patterns of time allocation over three activities: paid work, unpaid work and non-work activity (self-care and leisure). The analysis reveals the tension between paid and unpaid work in China’s new market economy. While both paid and unpaid work are essential to national well-being, as the analysis shows, the overriding concerns of the Chinese government in the post-reform period has been to improve the productivity of paid work and maximize growth of per capita GDP, assuming that the provision of domestic and care services will adjust itself accordingly. Consequently, market reforms have severely eroded the support and protection of both the government and employers for women’s reproductive roles, exacerbating the work-family conflicts that Chinese women face.

Work and Welfare: Revisiting the Linkages from a Gender Perspective
Shahra Razavi and Sarah Cook

This paper provides a gendered analysis of work and social policy, focusing on labour markets and employment on the one hand, and social policies, welfare and distributive outcomes on the other. It illustrates the interconnections between the organization and structure of the market for labour, women’s paid and unpaid work, labour market outcomes for women (such as labour force participation and gender wage gaps) and gendered access to welfare entitlements, social policy and protection. Building on feminist and other heterodox analyses which view labour markets as social and gendered institutions, the paper argues for rethinking policy frameworks dealing with work and social policy from a gender perspective.
This paper was funded by Fundación Carolina

Engendering Social Security and Protection: Challenges for Making Social Security and Protection Gender Equitable
Shahra Razavi

This paper explores the close connections between labour markets and some modalities of social protection, highlighting the key features of women’s work patterns that are likely to shape their access to social protection. The analysis utilizes different social protection programmes and the extent to which they are likely to reach women and make a positive impact on their socioeconomic position. This paper was commissioned by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung as part of a publication series on gender and social security and protection and was first presented at the annual conference of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) in Hangzhou, China in June 2011.
This paper was commissioned by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES)