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International Monetary Fund. Communications Department
This issue of Finance & Development discusses need of empowering women, which is critical for the world’s economy and people. Unequal or unfair treatment can marginalize women and hinder their participation as productive individuals contributing to society and the economy in invaluable ways. The rich tapestry of organizations and individuals who can make a difference to ensure women have equal opportunities; there is a crucial role for policymakers. They can use their positions to design policies that help women and girls’ access what they need for a fulfilling life—including education, health services, safe transportation, legal protection against harassment, finance, and flexible working arrangements. The IMF recommends these kinds of policy measures to its member countries—and works with many governments to examine how policies affect women. The IMF’s 189 member countries face many different challenges, but empowering women remains a common denominator and a global imperative for all those who care about fairness and diversity, but also productivity and growth of societies and economies that are more inclusive.
International Monetary Fund. African Dept.
This Selected Issues paper investigates the macroeconomic impact of existing gender gaps in Ethiopia and discusses the authorities’ policies in the areas of gender equality and women’s rights, with a focus on women’s economic engagement. Ethiopia has shown a firm political commitment to the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights; however significant challenges around women’s economic participation remain. Whilst most people work in Ethiopia, women face many barriers to formal labor force participation, have lower levels of education than men—particularly at secondary and tertiary levels—and have significant wage gaps compared to men. The findings suggest that, eliminating gender gaps in both educational attainment and the rate of formal employment could increase output in Ethiopia over time by over 24 percent. Improved institutional capacity would lead to better integration of gender issues into the planning and implementation of government policies. Ethiopia has already embedded gender units within the structure of many of its ministries.
Ms. Sonali Jain-Chandra, Ms. Kalpana Kochhar, Ms. Monique Newiak, Yang Yang, and Ms. Edda Zoli
This paper analyzes the relationship between fiscal and structural policies and gender inequality in education and labor force participation for countries at different stages of development. Due to the substantial number of possible factors that link with gender inequality previously highlighted in the literature, we pay particular attention to addressing model uncertainty and using various statistical methods to find the variables with the strongest links to gender gaps. We find that higher public spending on education, better sanitation facilities, low adolescent fertility, and narrower marriage age gaps are significantly related to narrower gender gaps in education. We also find that better infrastructure, a stronger institutional environment, more equal legal rights, and low adolescent fertility rates are strongly associated with higher female labor force participation. When labor market protection is low, an increase in protection is associated with a narrowing of labor force participation gaps between men and women. But when labor market protection levels are high, an increase in protection is associated with a widening in labor force participation gaps.
Rasmané Ouedraogo and Idrissa Ouedraogo
We examine the impact of gender equality on electoral violence in Africa using micro-level data from the sixth round of Afrobarometer surveys. The sample covers 30 countries. We find that gender equality is associated with lower electoral violence. Quantitatively, our estimates show that an increase in female-to-male labor force participation ratio by 1 percentage point is correlated with a reduction of the probability of electoral violence across the continent by around 4.2 percentage points. Our results are robust to alternative ways to measure electoral violence and gender equality, as well as to alternative specifications. The findings of this paper support the long-standing view that women empowerment contributes to the reduction of violence and underscore the urgency of addressing gender inequality in Africa.
Mariya Brussevich and Ms. Era Dabla-Norris
This paper examines gender inequality in the context of structural transformation and rebalancing in China. We document declining women's relative wages and labor force participation in China during the last two decades, despite rapid growth and expansion of the service sector. Using household data, we provide evidence consistent with a U-shaped relationship between economic development and women's labor market outcomes. Using a model of structural transformation, we show that labor market barriers for women have increased over time. Model counterfactuals suggest that removing these barriers and increasing service sector productivity can boost both gender equality and economic growth in China.
Romina Kazandjian, Ms. Lisa L Kolovich, Ms. Kalpana Kochhar, and Ms. Monique Newiak
We show that gender inequality decreases the variety of goods countries produce and export, in particular in low-income and developing countries. We argue that this happens through at least two channels: first, gender gaps in opportunity, such as lower educational enrollment rates for girls than for boys, harm diversification by constraining the potential pool of human capital available in an economy. Second, gender gaps in the labor market impede the development of new ideas by decreasing the efficiency of the labor force. Our empirical estimates support these hypotheses, providing evidence that gender-friendly policies could help countries diversify their economies.
Ms. Lisa L Kolovich and Sakina Shibuya
Gender budgeting uses fiscal policies to promote gender equality and women’s advancement, but is struggling to take hold in the Middle East and Central Asia. We provide an overview of two gender budgeting efforts in the region—Morocco and Afghanistan. Achievements in these two countries include increasing female primary and secondary education enrollment rates and reducing maternal mortality. But the region not only needs to use fiscal policies for women’s advancement, but also reform tax and financial laws, enforce laws that assure women’s safety in public, and change laws that prevent women from taking advantage of employment opportunities.
Ms. Christine Dieterich, Anni Huang, and Mr. Alun H. Thomas
As labor market data is scarce in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), this paper uses household survey data to analyze the determinants of the gender gap in the labor market and its welfare implications for five SSA countries in multinomial logit models with propensity score matching method. The analysis confirms that education opens up opportunities for women to escape agricultural feminization and engage in formal wage employment, but these opportunities diminish when women marry—a disadvantage increasingly relevant when countries develop and urbanization progresses. Opening a household enterprise offers women an alternative avenue to escape low-paid jobs in agriculture, but the increase in per capita income is lower than male-owned household enterprises. These findings underline that improving women’s education needs to be supported by measures to allow married women to keep their jobs in the wage sector.
Mrs. Katharine M Christopherson Puh, Audrey Yiadom, Juliet Johnson, Francisca Fernando, Hanan Yazid, and Clara Thiemann
It is well established that a wide range of legal impediments in countries’ domestic laws have prevented women from achieving full economic empowerment, which in turn has negative macroeconomic implications. In many countries, laws often reflect and perpetuate gender norms that limit women’s economic participation, and removal of these impediments through legal reform has been shown to be an effective method to catalyze greater participation of women in the economy—along with the related macroeconomic benefits. Once legal barriers are removed and provisions for more equal treatment under the law are embedded, the law can also be employed as a powerful tool to incentivize women to pursue equal opportunities, change mindsets regarding the role of women, and hold institutions and individuals accountable for achieving results. Accordingly, it is imperative for countries to focus on eliminating existing legal impediments and designing appropriate incentives to increase women’s participation in the economy. This paper goes beyond previous Fund work by categorizing the key sources of laws that impede women’s economic empowerment, as well as ways in which the law can be used as a tool to create behavioral changes and shifts in perceptions of women in the economy. Case studies of six countries (Iceland, Peru, Rwanda, The Philippines, Tunisia, and the United States) that rank high in gender equality in their respective regions demonstrate how legal reforms have been implemented in differing contexts to help achieve women’s economic empowerment. Given the relevance to the Fund’s mandate, the paper also notes the case for a stepped-up role for the IMF in advising on legal reforms that remove barriers to, and incentivize, women’s economic empowerment. Although this paper highlights dominant belief systems and cultural norms that have contributed to limiting the economic empowerment of women, it does not intend to render any judgment on these systems or norms.
Natalija Novta and Joyce Wong
Women across the world remain an underutilized resource in the labor force. Participation in the labor force averages around 80 percent for men but only 50 percent for women – nearly half of women’s productive potential remains untapped compared to one-fifth for men. Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), as a region, saw the largest gains in female labor force participation (LFP) in the world during the last two decades. Women in LAC are becoming increasingly active in paid work, closing the gap with men and catching up to their counterparts in advanced economies at an impressive rate. In this paper, we document the recent trends in female LFP and female education in the LAC region, discuss the size of potential gains to GDP from increasing female LFP and policies which could be deployed towards this goal.