Program Objective

While many women in low-income countries are still self-employed in agriculture, their long-term economic empowerment associated with growth and structural change will centrally depend on their ability to participate in the labor market and work in well-paying non-agricultural jobs; this promotes their economic empowerment directly, and also increases their bargaining power within households. Their ability to work in good jobs will depend on social and economic constraints to participation, occupational and sectoral segregation and associated earning gaps. Economic growth and structural change can help remove barriers, but in many contexts have done little to promote female employment. Consequently, in some developing countries economic growth has been accompanied by stagnant or declining female labor force participation, occupational and sectoral segregation has generally not fallen with economic development, and globalization and trade had mixed impacts on promoting female employment opportunities.

The GrOW research program focuses on understanding heterogeneity in the impact of growth and structural change on women's employment opportunities and the type of jobs they are able to get. Our research program will provide answers to the question why the link between growth and female economic empowerment has been so heterogeneous across different countries, settings, and aspects of empowerment (e.g. employment vs. segregation vs. pay). It will identify the key constraints that prevent growth and structural change to promote women's empowerment, and develop a detailed policy agenda for policy-makers in low-income countries to harness growth for greater female economic empowerment. Country-specific policy approaches will be generated for the case study countries included in the research, but broader policy messages will be generated for low-income countries more generally.

Specifically, we will study the different possible transmission channels from growth to women's economic empowerment and derive hypotheses for the subsequent empirical projects. These include an analysis of the impact of growth and structural change on women's labor force participation in different contexts, on spatial patterns of employment by gender, and on occupational and sectoral segregation. 

Furthermore we will study how different policies and constraints affect the transmission from growth to female economic empowerment, focusing on the role of trade policies and global value chains, different educational policies, and the linkage between employment and domestic violence.

Lastly, we will also conduct a comprehensive and systematic review of the macro and micro literature on the impact of female empowerment on economic growth. More on systematic reviews here.

Our research will be primarily based on conceptual and quantitative research, but our inter-disciplinary team will integrate broader research perspectives into the research program.