PROJECTMaking Growth Work for Women in Low-Income Countries

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  • Making Growth Work for Women in Low-Income Countries: Studies

    Pakistanis expressing opinions on health, education, and water issues during a district budget hearing Pakistan, 2010 Picture credit: Center on International Development and Governance, Urban Institute

    Study One

    Study one will provide an assessment of how economic growth promotes women’s well-being and empowerment using micro-level data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), supplemented by time and country specific contextual data. Well-being includes good mental and physical health, an appropriate stock of human and social capital, the acquisition of pro-social values, the capacity to contribute to their families and a sense of personal competence. Our analysis will help identify policies and programs directed at fostering women’s well-being (e.g. minimum marriage age laws) that are a necessary complement to economic growth. Some argue that scholars have paid insufficient attention to the social institutions through which economic growth exerts its effects on women’s well-being (e.g. household and families). By including a number of outcomes other than labor force supply and wages (e.g. marriage age, caretaking responsibilities, health) we will be able to assess the effects of economic growth on some of the processes that these institutions directly impact. Our research will be able to identify whether—and under what circumstances—policies about gender equity are necessary to supplement whatever increase in well-being women experience from economic growth.


    Study Two

    Study two will assess what aspects of economic growth are most beneficial for women’s economic empowerment in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa using time series data on countries from World Bank and other sources. Our main hypothesis is that the institutional context is critical for women’s empowerment and that it will reflect on wages and employment, and on the economic position of women relative to men. We will conduct a complementary study of Brazil’s trade liberalization to illustrate the long term consequences of trade liberalization on labor market outcomes. Brazil’s unilateral trade liberalization between 1990 and 1995 consisted of very large declines in trade barriers across many different industries. While studies have shown considerable impacts of this policy on overall wages and employment, to the best of our knowledge, there is no work on its impact on women’s labor market outcomes.


    Study Three

    Study three on the Nigerian and Ghanaian economies will explore how and when growth, and the expansion of the service sector, affects women’s economic empowerment. Nigeria and Ghana are low-middle income countries with natural resource-driven economies that have similar growth rates, but different employment rates by sector. This study seeks to determine whether the growth of service industries have led to empowerment in Nigeria and Ghana. We will employ mixed-methods which will adopt multi-level survey sampling methodology resulting in case studies. This study will add to the literature by investigating whether the transition from natural resources-focused economies to service industries allowed for greater entry and mobility of women in the workforce, in comparison to other industries historically dominated by men. It will also compare how this process differs between Nigeria and Ghana.

    LEAD Pakistan trained village women in Rajanpur to run business of renting out chargeable solar lamps. This resulted in their economic empowerment with increased income. - Photo Credit: Abbas Mushtaq - LEAD Pakistan

    Study Four

    Study four will use mixed methods to investigate how different methods and provisions of irrigation affect women’s economic empowerment in Kenya, Ghana, Malawi, and Morocco. We hypothesize that different irrigation schemes (traditional, paddy rice, surface, drop etc.) and their respective management systems (e.g. led by men, women, or jointly managed) affect women’s economic empowerment throughout Africa. Surface irrigation is less efficient, labor intensive and less productive per unit area as compared to drip irrigation, the extensive use of which could burden women’s time availability. Moreover, we selected these four countries as they face similar challenges associated with rapid population growth, resulting pressures on food and natural resource systems, and increasing demand for irrigated land – yet are sufficiently different that could enable robust comparative analyses. Furthermore, with all of these countries signing to join the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, “the assessment of irrigation potential must go beyond large scale versus small scale to integrate concerns regarding environmental sustainability, resource use efficiency, nutrition and health impacts, and women’s empowerment.”


    Study Five

    Study five will investigate the effects of environmental degradation on women in slums or informal settlements in three major urban cities in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India. Environmental degradation is characterized by the reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological needs, which can alter the frequency and intensity of natural hazards and thus the vulnerability of communities. Through the idea of environmental justice, it is well established that marginalized income groups and women disproportionately suffer the negative consequences of environmental stressors. The processes of women’s economic empowerment (mostly through economic growth) could change the multidimensional power relations within society which then increases women’s resilience for coping with the consequence of environmental degradation. If growth does not change power relations in favor of women, which we hypothesize is possible, environmental degradation could further jeopardize women’s role in society.


    Study Six

    Study six will illustrate how urban spatial transformations and the corresponding transportation challenges in emerging megacities affect female economic empowerment in Pakistan and Nigeria. Rapid growth and resulting changes in economic structures result in the spatial sorting of firms. Core urban areas often end up hosting hi-tech service sector firms while manufacturing units move to peri-urban places. In cities where public transit systems are largely inaccessible (for reasons of affordability or safety), both workers and firms struggle to make location decisions which would be optimal for household welfare and economic productivity. As these economies experience structural transformation, the pull for female labor will continue to increase. Women, however are often disproportionately victimized by harassment and crime on public transit systems, which limits their mobility and thus access to economic opportunities. In addition, most workers, especially women, commute longer distances which can add to women’s time burden, productivity, and safety. Understanding how transportation services affect female workers is critical. The two countries for this study were chosen because in both contexts, local governments face severe limitations in delivering effective and safe urban transportation services.

    Photo Credit: Abbas Mushtaq - LEAD Pakistan

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    Research Areas International development