1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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

From Chapter 3 – Liberalization, labour markets and women’s gains: A mixed picture

Women’s ability to achieve parity in well-being with men depends on the type of macroeconomic policies and development strategies undertaken. This is because women’s and men’s capabilities, their access to resources such as time, land and credit, and their ability to obtain social insurance differ. Macroeconomic policies are mediated through a system of gendered job segregation: an important factor, even where there is an otherwise level playing field between women and men in terms of qualifications, skills and control over assets. While there is some variation in country-specific conditions, job segregation between paid and unpaid labour, and within paid labour markets—by occupation as well as industry—continues to be globally pervasive, a tendency that has shown little sign of abating.

There are differences in women’s and men’s capabilities and possibilities for generating a livelihood, resulting from differential treatment in important markets such as labour, land and credit. The ability of macroeconomic policies to promote gender equality thus depends first on the degree to which economic growth is enhanced, and second, on the gender distributional effects of growth: via public expenditure, through intrafamily/household resource distribution, and through various markets.

This chapter considers the pathways by which liberalization policies produce gendered outcomes, emphasizing measurable labour market changes. This focus is in part due to the emphasis that globalization proponents place on the beneficial effects of liberalization on women’s employment and income. The evidence presented questions the validity of this claim.

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