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Paid work, women’s empowerment and inclusive growth: Transforming the structures of constraint

Authors/editor(s): Naila Kabeer with Ragui Assaad, Akosua Darkwah, Simeen Mahmud, Hania Sholkamy, Sakiba Tasneem and Dzodzi Tsikata, and with statistical support by Munshi Sulaiman

Paid work, women’s empowerment and inclusive growth

Drawing on household survey data collected in Egypt, Ghana and Bangladesh as part of the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment Research Partners’ Consortium, this report provides insights into the ‘resource’ pathways that enhance women’s agency and thereby contribute to the inclusiveness of the economic growth process.

Moreover, it looks at the the extent to which the structure of economic opportunities, generated by a country’s growth strategies, translated into positive impacts on women’s lives in these three country contexts.Briefly, the findings suggest that economic growth alone does not promote gender equality. Rather, unless patterns of growth generate reasonable quality jobs for women, the extent to which greater gender equality is achieved will depend on the actions of the state and civil society.

Greater gender equality, in turn, does have the potential to contribute to inclusive growth when it is achieved in education, employment and other valued resources. In particular, women’s access to valued resources, such as decent jobs and higher education, can have positive distributional implications for growth.

The report highlights three broad areas of interventions that are needed to transform the gender-specific constraints that keep women out of the market or trapped in poorly paid activities. Creating a more enabling regulatory environment will, among other things, require action to address discriminatory legislation, such as inheritance laws, and promote legislation that seeks to level the economic playing field for women and men, such as state support for maternity leave. Social protection policies are also important.

They assist women and men to cope with, and recover from, the various kinds of risks and insecurities associated with globalization. The gender transformative potential of an inclusive growth strategy could be enhanced if, for example, provision is made for child care for women participating in these programmes or minimum quotas are put in place to ensure women’s participation.

Last, supporting women’s organizational capacity can give them a greater voice and influence in advancing their own needs, interests and priorities and larger capacity to address barriers to women’s progress. This support can assist women to become strong agents for social transformation.

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Part I | Part II | Part III

Bibliographic information

Publication type: Assessments

UN Women office involved in publication: UN Women Headquarters

Publication year: 2013

Number of pages: 108

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