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Enhancing Women's Economic Empowerment Through Better Policies in Latin America

Women's increased participation in Latin America's labour markets has been one of the most significant changes to those markets in the last 30 years. Still, their participation is well below men's, and the rate of increase is slowing down.

Despite high economic growth, falling income inequality, poverty reduction, and improvements in women's education, women continue to be at a disadvantage for job opportunities and working conditions. These inequalities suggest that women face gender-based constraints. These may be based on rules, customs, beliefs, and values. They may also be the result of institutions that reproduce these inequalities. Among women, there are also strong differences. Uneducated and poor women participate less in paid work.

Different policies have tried to tackle these gender disparities. Policies to foster employment have focused on promoting entrepreneurship through support for micro-enterprises. There remains a key gap, however. Policies designed to improve the quality of jobs for women who are already employed are scarce, and their impact is not clear. The region has expanded social protection programs, yet how these programs support women's economic empowerment and labour market participation is disputed. Some argue that social protection programs can reinforce traditional women's roles while others argue that they enhance women's autonomy and empowerment.

This project seeks to explore these issues, and more specifically, the determinants of women's labour market participation. Researchers will examine the constraints that explain occupational segregation (i.e., fields of work occupied mostly or only by women), precarious work, and low-income levels. They will analyze the consequences on poverty, inequality, and growth. They will apply an innovative mix of research methods and analytical approaches to provide in-depth insight into the way gender-based constraints operate in different contexts, and what can be done to transform them. The project will help strengthen skills and knowledge in the area of gender, labour market, and social policy analysis and evaluation among policymakers, women's advocacy NGOs, and young researchers.

The project involves eight country case studies, regional and comparative research, and a call for impact evaluation studies, training, and dissemination activities. The findings will serve to improve the effectiveness of current policies to promote gender equality in labour markets and to ensure better economic opportunities for women. The Centro Interdisciplinario de Estudios sobre el Desarrollo, Uruguay, will lead the project, in collaboration with the Center for Distributive, Labour and Social Studies at Universidad Nacional de La Plata.

Identificador del Proyecto
Estado de Proyecto
Fecha de finalización
36 months
Funcionario del IDRC
Carolina Robino
Total del financiamiento
CA$ 1,357,300.00
El Salvador
South America
Employment and Growth
Employment and Growth
País de la Institución
Líder del proyecto
Alma Espino
Centro Interdisciplinario de Estudios sobre el Desarrollo, Uruguay
País de la Institución
Líder del proyecto
Guillermo Cruces (Project Co-Leader)
Universidad Nacional de la Plata



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