Gender in economics

Source: Gender Action
Women are often the first to lose their jobs, first to forego healthcare and education, and first to enter flexible labor markets with poor working conditions during IFI-imposed economic reforms. Gender Action prepared this gender toolkit for civil society organizations conducting research, monitoring and advocacy on the international financial institutions (IFIs) and commercial banks in order to support efforts to ‘engender’ their work. June 2010. (PDF). [see more]
Notwithstanding the fact that economic, trade and labour policies have differentiated impacts on men and women, the concept of gender has been systematically ignored by the analysis and formulation of these policies. Although economists show certain openness to acknowledge gender inequality in microeconomics – mainly in terms of within-household distribution – this perspective has failed to be incorporated into the area of macroeconomics and trade agreements based on the assumption that these are gender-neutral spaces.

Some of the main problems to carry out economic analysis – such as the effects of multilateral trade liberalization – from a gender perspective are related to the economic theory itself which bases most part of its studies on the analysis of an average representative agent that fails to recognize the differences between men and women.

The lack of theories, methodologies and indicators and the very absence of the subject in those schools where economists are trained, contribute to reproduce this situation. In recent decades, progress has been made by feminist analysis in developing research aimed at reformulating traditional theories, methodologies and models, thus managing to include gender as an analytical category and looking deeper into the effects of economic policy measures on gender relations.

The gender perspective in economic research faces the so-called “gender-blindness” of traditional approaches and points to the existence of unequal relations between genders, which generally make women suffer the unfavourable effects of implemented policies. Analyses of the negative effects of gender stereotypes on women’s economic opportunities, the labour market, employment quality, living standards and poverty were also launched.

The economic phenomena taking place as of the early 1990s have brought about changes – in some cases radical ones – in the modes of production and evolution of employment, in the relationships between the State and social structures as well as in the links between countries and the international community. These changes have had specific repercussions on the life of women.

The structural adjustment programmes applied by governments (and usually imposed by international financial institutions) involve trade and investment liberalization, privatization, deregulation and austerity measures including cuts in state social policies. However, these programmes are not gender-neutral since one of their main biases is the transfer of state costs to the reproductive economy and the unpaid work of women.

The effects of changes that have taken place in production systems and the labour market as a result of economic liberalization, have been studied with regards to labour flexibility, informality and precariousness, the new production linkages and the maquila phenomenon. These analyses also give visibility to unpaid domestic work and the need for this to be considered as work in national budgets, adopting different measurement methods in order to contribute to the debate and analyses of unpaid and non-financial activities, mainly carried out by women within their households and in the community (reproductive economy).

In order to have analysis that are not affected by “gender-blindness”, it is necessary to develop macroeconomic models reflecting the role played by gender relations in the economy and showing a critical position on the assumptions of current models. Likewise, the economists that traditionally carry out gender-neutral analyses should include the contributions feminist economists have made over the years into their research, thus preventing the existence of two schools on the same phenomena.

Trade consequences would be different for women and men on account of at least three reasons: 1) In the first place, because most part of the work carried out by women goes unpaid and unacknowledged; 2) In the second place, a significant part of female work is not translated into formal employment, but rather involves jobs in small-scale enterprises lacking social coverage and protection (neither provided by the law nor by trade unions); 3) In the third place, the world of salaried work, both formal and informal, is highly discriminatory: male is associated with machines and technology, while female is associated with household activities and the area of services. Female salaried work is considered to be less valuable than the work carried out by men. Women continue to earn lower salaries and have both less social security coverage as well as less opportunities. (Espino, A & Azar, P (2002): Comercio Internacional y Equidad de Género, Tomo 1, LAGTN)

Work is not employment: As a human pursuit, work includes both paid activities performed in the context of the market and unpaid activities undertaken outside of it. Some economists argue that, for the sake of accuracy and completeness, the concept of work should include the subsistence, domestic, informal and volunteer sectors as well as traditional formal employment. These analytical approaches clearly bring out the asymmetrical distribution of workloads within households, most particularly the excessive burden on women, amounting to a double working day. (ECLAC, “Women’s contribution to equality in Latin America and the Caribbean”, August 2007).

Poverty: The gender perspective poses criticism to an income-based definition of poverty and highlights the material, symbolic and cultural components as those which influence power relationships which in turn determine a greater or less gender access to material, social and cultural resources.

Budgets: Although gender responsive budget initiatives have not defined a unique way of action, they have the following characteristics in common: 1) They are not aimed at formulating separate budgets for women and men. 2) They are focused on the analysis and consideration of gender-related aspects, gender mainstreaming in all budget areas and stages, and in the policies thus enabled. 3) They promote the active participation of women and civil society organizations. 4) They monitor and evaluate the government’s collection and allocation of resources from a gender perspective. 5) They promote a more effective use of resources, taking into account the situation of men and women receiving them, in order to advance towards gender equity, poverty eradication and human development. 6) Their formulation is focused on the discussion of options aimed at giving priority to existing resources and not necessarily on government expenditure and investment increases or changes in the amount of resources allocated to each particular sector. (Source: Presupuesto y género en América Latina y el Caribe) Budget and Gender in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Financing for development: The United Nations International Conference on Financing for Development, FfD, was held in Monterrey, Mexico, 18-22 March 2002. The FfD process was spurred into being after WSSD+5 and NGO pressure at Seattle forced unprecedented collaboration between the UN and world finance and trade institutions to find better ways to finance development and fully implement the agreed action plans of the major UN conferences of the past decade.

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Trade policies

Seventh WTO Ministerial Conference: missed opportunity to address global challenges (Civil society networks)

Feminist Political Economic Framework (Center of Concern)

Impacting MERCOSUR's gender policies: experiences, lessons learned and the ongoing work of civil society en Latin Americ (CIEDUR)

The DOHA negotiations: What is really at stake? (DAWN)

What you need to know about Trade-Finance Policy Coherence (Center of Concern and Gender and Trade Network)

Changes in Economic Policy Regimes in Uruguay from a Gender Perspective, 1930-2000 (The International Working Group on Gender, Macroeconomics, and International Economics)

Gender Indicators for monitoring Trade Agreements (WIDE Network)

Trade in the Americas – Women Central to the Debate (Centre of Concern (COC))

Gender Implications of the CARICOM single market (CAFRA)

Women's poverty

Gender and poverty (UNDP)

Economic growth

New gender equity index 2008 (Social Watch)

The Impact of Gender Stereotypes on Economic Growth (The International Working Group on Gender, Macroeconomics, and International Economics)

The Efficiency of Gender Equity in Economic Growth: Neoclassical and Feminist Approaches (International Working Group on Gender, Macroeconomics, and International Economics)

The Gender Equity Index 2007: inequity persists (Social Watch)

Financing for development

Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development

Engendering aid: analysis of the Accra outcomes (FRIDE - Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior)

A gender-equitable public policy (DAWN Informs)

Minimal outcomes for gender equality (WIDE Network)

Financing gender equality (Terra Viva)

The Financing for Development Process in the United Nations: a Gender Perspective (IGTN Global Secretariat)

Gender equality at the centre of Financing for Development (WIDE Network)

"Aid" implies a top-bottom relationship (Choike)

Women’s Rights & Gender Equality, the New Aid Environment and Civil Society Organisations (UK Gender and Development Network)

"Policy incoherence" frustrates funding for gender equity (IPS News)

Resources on aid effectiveness (AWID)

Women marching together to make gender equality a central development goal (WIDE)

Women’s Consultation on Financing for Development (FfD) (

Aid from new European Union's members disregards women (IPS News)

Santa Marta statement (Caribbean an Latin American Networks)

Implementing the Paris Declaration: implications for the promotion of women's rights and gender equality (CCIC-AWID-WIDE)

Financing for gender equality

Civil society and the new aid modalities: addressing the challenges for gender (DAW - IGTN Caribbean)

Work and employment

The impact of the crisis on women in Central and Eastern Europe (Monthly Review)

Two stops in today's new Global geographies: shaping novel labor supplies and employment regimes (Woman and Development - ECLAC)

Key feminist concerns regarding core labor standards, decent work and corporate social responsibility (WIDE)

Women, gender and informal economy: an assessment of ILO research and suggested ways forward (ILO)

Girls in mining (International Labour Organization - ILO)

Women's contribution to equality in Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)

Paid/Unpaid Work and the Globalization of Reproduction (The International Working Group on Gender, Macroeconomics, and International Economics)

The political and social economy of care in a development context: conceptual issues, research questions and policy opti (UNRISD)

Equality at work: Tackling the challenge (ILO)


Budgeting with Women in Mind (Global Policy Forum)

Multilateral organizations

New gender toolkit for international finance-watchers (Gender Action)

The Gender Impacts of Debt and the IFIs (Gender Action)

Neolibs, neocons and gender justice: Lessons from global negotiations

Understanding Global Finance, Building International Resistance (Gender Action)

Gender Guide to World Bank and International Monetary Fund Policy-Based Lending

Mapping Multilateral Development Banks’ reproductive health and HIV/AIDS spending (Gender Action)

Gender justice (Gender Action)


Gender justice, citizenship, and development (Zubaan/IDRC)

Contributions in economics and politics from a gender perspective (REPEM)

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