This project looks at what we know about the nature of women’s work in developing countries, and how the creation of productive jobs for women that are properly remunerated can be a route to women’s economic and social empowerment.
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 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 tasks and caring for family, children and the elderly. 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 well-being. For women to be economically and socially empowered, it is necessary to increase both the quantity and quality of jobs for women, and address gender barriers in accessing job opportunities and 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’ of earning income for the family as well as caring for other members of the household that low income women in particular face.