Special journal issue highlights IDRC-supported findings on women’s paid work

March 08, 2018
Women work in an office setting in India


An important aspect of women’s economic empowerment is their participation in the labour market. A special issue of Policy in Focus addresses this topic with contributions from IDRC-supported research in Latin America and the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) program, a multi-funder initiative managed by IDRC.

Despite progress in education and health worldwide, women still face significant barriers to engage as full economic citizens. These inequalities remain large, persistent, and pervasive in many parts of the world. Addressing these gaps is not only a moral imperative but an opportunity; there is growing evidence that gender equality can directly foster economic growth and broad-based social development.

The special issue of Policy in Focus examines the conditions under which work can lead to women’s empowerment by assessing the recent trends and determinants of women’s labour market participation and the public policies that aim to improve gender equality in the economy.

For instance, one article features research by Alma Espino and Soledad Salvador, which found that labour participation and economic empowerment are not synonymous. The authors argue that ‘’to transform labour market participation into an empowerment process, gender stereotypes have to be debunked.” 

This volume also discusses the role of social norms to explain the supply and demand of women’s labour. “A study of an economic empowerment program in India demonstrates how much social norms matter and that change is possible,” wrote Arjan de Haan, program leader at IDRC. “These are long-term processes that may follow non-linear paths, and they will need sustained support.’’

This publication seeks to contribute useful evidence for policies that can help empower women and remove barriers to a virtuous circle between their economic empowerment and sustainable development in a broader sense. Although the focus is mainly on Latin America, studies from other developing countries provide useful comparisons.

Policy in Focus is published by the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth.

Read the special issue of Policy in Focus: Women’s participation in the labour market, edited by Carolina Robino and Raquel Tebadi.

Cover of the Policy in Focus special issue showing photos of women working in different work contexts across the globe.

Women working in different work contexts across the globe.