Women's work - routes to economic and social empowerment

This project aims to shed light on how and why women’s work differs from men’s work in specific contexts, in order to help narrow the gender gap.

Date Published
10 Jan 2019
Expected Start Date
01 Jan 2019
Expected End Date
31 Dec 2023
Project Type
Research and Capacity Development
Project Status

This project looks at what we know about the nature of women’s work in developing countries. It will consider policy paths for the creation of productive jobs for women that are properly remunerated and create a route to women’s economic and social empowerment. Within the framework of the UNU-WIDER 2019-23 work programme, the project aims to contribute to the Institute’s Theory of Change’s three interlinked outputs of creating, strengthening, and exchanging knowledge. The goal of the project is to increase understanding among policymakers and academics of how and why women’s work differs from men’s work in specific contexts, and how these differences can be addressed to narrow the gender gap.

Recent progress in narrowing gender gaps in education, health, and political representation has not been matched by similar improvements in labour market outcomes for women, or more broadly, women’s economic empowerment. Global data shows that there has been no increase in female labour force participation and no decrease in the labour force participation gap between men and women. Women typically occupy the worst-paid jobs with the least protection, and attitudes toward gender often hinder access to better opportunities. 

Women’s work differs from men’s as women are more likely to be unpaid for their work in family enterprises, and women are primarily responsible for household and caring tasks. Such combined responsibilities to contribute to their family enterprises, earn income in typically low-paid jobs, and care for the household can negatively affect women’s physical and mental wellbeing.

For women to be economically and socially empowered, it is necessary to increase both the quantity and quality of jobs for women, to address gender barriers in accessing job opportunities, and to reduce or eliminate gender-based segregation in labour markets. Further, the achievement of gender equality in labour market outcomes critically depends on the adoption of policies that address the ‘double burden’ that low-income women in particular face – earning income for the family as well as caring for other household members.




Related content

Maxime Houinato UN WOMEN


UN Women in East and Southern Africa



Catalysing Policy Improvement in Africa

This project aims to improve policy outputs in the areas of maternal, newborn, sexual and reproductive health across five African countries.

05 Dec 2023


Advancing Gender Equality in Health: Expanding voices, evidence, and time horizons for change

To support gender-responsive change within systems and sectors, this project will deliver a thematic issue of 'Health Research Policy and Systems'.

05 Dec 2023