Foreign aid for gender equality: future agenda.


This is the second of a two-part article presenting key discussion points from the UNU-WIDER gender equality workshop held 12-13 July 2012, in Helsinki. The first part of this article discussed the priorities and internal challenges for donor agencies with respect to promoting gender equality and ensuring that it is, and remains, a priority. In this second part, we present some of the themes on which both researchers and donors could focus in order to maintain the relevance of aid at fostering gender equality.

Formalizing female employment

In the past decades, wage growth globally has lagged behind productivity growth. This worsens specifically women's position in the labour market. Indeed, women are increasingly trapped in low-productivity and low-wage jobs while the gap in educational achievement between men and women has rapidly closed. Therefore women's employment in the formal sector is not a function of women's skills, but rather of structural constraints of the global economy. Global competition among firms makes cutting costs an imperative resulting in a reduction of the labour costs through low investment in human capital. This creates a defeminization of formal labour observed in more capitalistic and industrial economies where the share of women in the informal sector has continually increased. Women constitute the majority of workers in the manufacturing and export-oriented sectors where they acquired skills on the job. With a reduction of human capital investment on workers, more women are increasingly pushed toward the informal sector resulting in an informalization of women's labour.

How can aid contribute to shifting women from informal to formal employment? Macroeconomic policies, including monetary and tax policies, can play a role. In low-income countries the most important question is how to raise women's income from farming. This could involve access to credit and technology, and also reducing the care burden which is often left to women.

Overcoming barriers to female participation in the labour force

In the Middle East and North African (MENA) region, investments in human capital have not translated into the commensurate participation of women in the economy either--termed the 'MENA paradox'. One explanation could be the means through which women primarily obtain employment, which is through registering at the government labour office and entering the government job lottery competition. Meanwhile, men tend to enquire...

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