endowments, agency and economic opportunities

This blog entry is part of a series that highlights research ideas for development policy and practice, supported by the Knowledge for Change Program (KCP).

“We don’t know our rights. We are not very familiar with the laws. Don’t Beat Your Wife – Is It In Law? “ -from an interview with a woman in Burkina Faso, World Development Report 2012 on Gender Equality and Development.

Women’s rights activists have observed November 25 as a day to raise awareness of addressing gender-based violence since the early 1980s, and the United Nations has officially designated it as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women In 2000.

Despite continued progress in improving women’s rights and opportunities, public actions for greater gender equality are still insufficient. Women’s free will – their ability to make effective choices – is extremely important to their individual well-being, their quality of life, as well as the future behavior of their children. The enactment and effective implementation of laws, as well as social norms, values ​​and expectations can promote or restrict the ability of women to take control of their lives.

We all recognize that gender equality is a moral imperative and a basic human right. But what makes the argument even more compelling is the fact that gender equality also makes great economic sense. In addition to the importance of the agency exercise highlighted above, two additional dimensions deserve to be noted for a path towards greater gender equality: i) the accumulation of endowments, such as the level education and health, and ii) the use of these endowments to pursue opportunities, in order to improve labor productivity and income. The three interconnected concepts of gender equality results – endowments, capacity for action and economic opportunities – form the basis of the conceptual framework of the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development published almost 10 years ago, supported by the KCP, and the ideas still resonate tremendously today.

What gives power to women? And how do we define the pathways to empowerment?

Based on conversations with 2,000 women in 19 countries, the The WDR2012 team asked women in each country to place 100 women representative of their community on different steps of a fictitious “ladder of power and freedom”. Each community had a different story to tell, but many common factors emerged. Qualitative comparative analysis reveals that what is considered powerful for a woman is often related to economic freedom – the ability to generate and manage income, followed closely by obtaining education and training, then by access to social networks and personal characteristics. The graph below provides a summary of the perceived “potency” factors. The WDR2012 team argues that achieving greater gender equality in endowments, agency and economic opportunities requires eliminating gender barriers in households, in the structure and functioning of markets, and in the functioning of markets. formal and informal institutions, while paying attention to the interactions between these factors.

How to better understand the disparity between the sexes in the exercise of the agency?

Even when the gender gaps in human capital and physical assets begin to narrow, unequal gender outcomes could still emerge due to the unequal capacity between men and women to make effective choices and transform these outcomes. choice in desired results. Often the disparity in a person’s ability to exercise free will is most pronounced at the household level, which may include issues such as control over resources, capacity for physical mobility, decision-making power over family formation, the absence of risk of violence and the ability to have a voice in society. However, efforts for a more comprehensive understanding of inequalities within households are often hampered by the difficulty of measuring and estimating gender differences in a family. Traditional measures of poverty at the household level often underestimate the differences in poverty between men and women. KCP supported an innovative approach to study the validity of the “equal sharing” assumption built into standard poverty estimates. In most cases, the disaggregated poverty rates for women are higher than for men. In Bangladesh, for example, by relaxing the rule of equal sharing, the consumption poverty gap between the sexes increases between 8 and 15% depending on the age group. A follow-up project we are supporting plans to further validate the approach through a randomized survey experiment in a low- or lower-middle-income country from three different perspectives. The results of the research project could have potentially important implications for social protection and broader development programs that rely on household-level targeting approaches for beneficiary identification.

What explains the segregation of employment by sex?

There is persistent occupational segregation between men and women, which traps women in low-productivity and low-paying jobs. Evidence gathered as part of WDR2012 points to three factors that contribute to gender inequality in the structure of employment. First, gender differences in human capital can lead to varying productivity and income, although its relative importance may be reduced as the education gap narrows. Second, when it comes to women farmers and entrepreneurs, they are as effective as their male counterparts, having taken into account gender disparities in access to productive inputs, such as access to land and on credit. Third, a significant part of the pay gap can be explained by the sorting of women and men into different jobs, although there is also some evidence of gender discrimination.

Recently, the KCP approved a grant to contribute to the policy debate on employment and human capital development and explore policy options for India to address the worsening participation of women in the labor market. The project will examine whether the lack of employability skills and informational barriers to job search are important factors in the low participation rate of women in the labor market in India, and whether these barriers can be overcome through virtual provision of employability skills training, personalized assistance in finding internships, informational interviews with industry leaders and access to an employment information portal from type Glassdoor. The project will conduct two randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with young women enrolled or recently graduated from vocational training institutes. The first RCT will assess the impact of an employability skills program that will be delivered alone or in combination with personalized internship support for students in vocational training. The second RCT will assess the effects of access to a mobile phone app and virtual chats by industry leaders, both of which aim to reduce information barriers that hinder effective school-to-work transitions. for women graduates of vocational training.

The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of the following projects under the guidance of the Task Team Leaders (TTLs) and researchers: World Development Report 2012 – Gender Equity and Development (TTL: Ana Revenge); Intra-household allowance and gender differences in consumption poverty (TTL: Talip Kilic); Validation of model-based estimates of resource allocation within the household and gender differences in consumption poverty (TTL: Talip Kilic); Lack of Employability Skills and Informational Barriers to Women’s Labor Market Participation in India: Evidence from Two Randomized Controlled Trials (TTL: S Anukriti).

About the blog series: The Knowledge for Change (KCP) program launched a series of blogs to retrospectively highlight a selection of research projects conducted over the past 20 years, many of which still remain highly relevant and offer excellent lessons for development policy and practice today. Managed by the World Bank’s (DEC) Vice Presidency of Development Economics, KCP promotes evidence-based policy making through research, data and analysis. To celebrate the fourth phase of the KCP launched in November 2020, this blog series will examine the wealth of knowledge that researchers have generated during previous phases of the KCP, distill lessons learned and inspire discussions on future directions of research.


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