Research Programs

Gender Equality and the Economy

Gender Equality and the Economy

While gender inequalities have diminished in some aspects of life, they remain deeply rooted in others. The vast majority of women around the world do not enjoy equality in economic participation, physical security, access to land, and financial resources or earnings. Closing gender gaps requires policy interventions that enhance women's economic opportunities and outcomes.

The Levy Institute’s Gender Equality and the Economy (GEE) program focuses on the ways in which economic processes and policies affect gender equality, and examines the influence of gender inequalities on economic outcomes. GEE’s goal is to stimulate reexamination of key economic concepts, models, and indicators—with a particular view to reformulating policy. It offers a broad view of what an economy is and how it functions, bringing into the analysis not only paid work, but also unpaid work (unpaid family work, work devoted to subsistence activities, caring for household members, and community volunteer work), an integral and key component of all economies. Ultimately, the program seeks to contribute knowledge and recommend policies that promote gender equality.

Our Research

GEE research concentrates on two primary themes: the gender dimensions of macroeconomic issues and international economic policy; and gender equality, poverty, and well-being in national and international perspective. In the past decade, a growing body of work has explored how macroeconomic outcomes are affected by gender inequalities, and how gender inequalities are influenced by macroeconomic policies. Although gender equality is not the focus of macroeconomic policy, such policies cannot be assumed to be gender neutral. Does a requirement to balance budgets make it more difficult to reduce gender inequality? Given the inability of markets to guarantee a job for all who seek one, how can public policy that promotes full employment be inclusive of gender equality considerations? How can economic growth and gender equality be made compatible? Can gender equality improve the employment/inflation trade-off?

The Levy Institute Measure of Economic Well-Being (LIMEW) was established in order to improve existing official measures of economic well-being and to allow for accurate cross-sectional and intertemporal comparisons. GEE has enhanced this area of the Levy Institute’s work by developing research on the intersection of gender inequality, expanded income, and time poverty. This research—including the reexamination of UN indicators for measuring gender inequality, new analyses of time-use data, and work preparatory to formulating alternative policy indicators—was central to the development of the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty, a new, innovative income measure that accounts for the negative impact time deficits exert on living standards.

The International Working Group on Gender, Macroeconomics, and International Economics (GEM-IWG) is a global network of economists formed for the purpose of promoting gender equity in the context of the world economy. GEE has partnered with GEM-IWG in organizing a series of seminars and conferences that are designed to promote a more focused international dialogue on the social dimension of globalization, and to explore the relationship between gender inequality and the economic liberalization policies that underpin the globalization process. The series is ongoing:


Associated Program

The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty

Program Publications

  • Working Paper No. 859 | February 2016
    A Technical Articulation for Asia-Pacific

    Against the backdrop of the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development, this paper analyzes the measurement issues in gender-based indices constructed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and suggests alternatives for choice of variables, functional form, and weights. While the UNDP Gender Inequality Index (GII) conceptually reflects the loss in achievement due to inequality between men and women in three dimensions—health, empowerment, and labor force participation—we argue that the assumptions and the choice of variables to capture these dimensions remain inadequate and erroneous, resulting in only the partial capture of gender inequalities. Since the dimensions used for the GII are different from those in the UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI), we cannot say that a higher value in the GII represents a loss in the HDI due to gender inequalities. The technical obscurity remains how to interpret GII by combining women-specific indicators with indicators that are disaggregated for both men and women. The GII is a partial construct, as it does not capture many significant dimensions of gender inequality. Though this requires a data revolution, we tried to reconstruct the GII in the context of Asia-Pacific using three scenarios: (1) improving the set of variables incorporating unpaid care work, pay gaps, intrahousehold decision making, exposure to knowledge networks, and feminization of governance at local levels; (2) constructing a decomposed index to specify the direction of gender gaps; and (3) compiling an alternative index using Principal Components Index for assigning weights. The choice of countries under the three scenarios is constrained by data paucity. The results reveal that the UNDP GII overestimates the gap between the two genders, and that using women-specific indicators leads to a fallacious estimation of gender inequality. The estimates are illustrative. The implication of the results broadly suggests a return to the UNDP Gender Development Index for capturing gender development, with an improvised set of choices and variables.

  • Working Paper No. 858 | January 2016

    The collapse of the Soviet Union initiated an unprecedented social and economic transformation of the successor countries and altered the gender balance in a region that counted gender equality as one of the key legacies of its socialist past. The transition experience of the region has amply demonstrated that the changes in the gender balance triggered by economic shifts are far from obvious, and that economic expansion and women’s economic empowerment do not always go hand in hand. Therefore, active measures to enhance women’s economic empowerment should be of central concern to the policy dialogue aimed at poverty and inequality reduction and inclusive growth. In this paper, we establish the current state of various dimensions of gender inequalities and their past dynamics in the countries of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia), and Western CIS (Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine), and propose steps aimed at reducing those inequalities in the context of inclusive growth, decent job creation, and economic empowerment.

  • In the Media | November 2015
    By Tamar Khitarishvili
    Voices from Eurasia, November 24, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

    I was recently in Tbilisi to participate in a conference that took stock of what we know about the challenges of job creation in the South Caucasus and Western CIS. While researching gender inequalities in labour markets of these countries, I searched for evidence on how the challenge of job creation can be overcome without perpetuating gender inequalities in the region, and preferably, by reducing them....

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  • One-Pager No. 50 | October 2015
    Expanding Child Care and Preschool Services

    This one-pager presents the key findings and policy recommendations of the research project report The Impact of Public Investment in Social Care Services on Employment, Gender Equality, and Poverty: The Turkish Case, which examines the demand-side rationale for a public investment in the social care sector in Turkey—specifically, early childhood care and preschool education (ECCPE)—by comparing its potential for job creation, pro-women allocation of jobs, and poverty reduction with an equivalent investment in the construction sector.

  • Research Project Reports | September 2015
    The Turkish Case

    Produced in partnership with the International Labour Organization, United Nations Development Programme, and UN Women, this report examines the demand-side rationale for a public investment in the social care sector—specifically, early childhood care and preschool education (ECCPE)—by comparing its potential for job creation, pro-women allocation of jobs, and poverty reduction with an equivalent investment in the construction sector.

    The authors find that a public investment of 20.7 billion TRY yields an estimated 290,000 new jobs in the construction sector and related sectors. However, an equal investment in ECCPE creates 719,000 new jobs in ECCPE and related sectors, or 2.5 times as many jobs. Furthermore, nearly three-quarters of the ECCPE jobs go to women, whereas a mere 6 percent of new jobs go to women following an expansion of the construction sector.

    ECCPE expansion is also shown to be superior in terms of the number of decent jobs (i.e., jobs with social security benefits) created: some 85 percent of new ECCPE jobs come with social security benefits, compared to the slightly more than 30 percent of construction jobs that come with equivalent benefits. Both expansions are found to benefit the poor, with an ECCPE expansion targeting prime-working-age poor mothers of small children showing the potential to reduce the relative poverty rate by 1.14 percentage points. In terms of fiscal sustainability, an ECCPE expansion is estimated to recoup 77 percent of public expenditures through increased government revenues, while construction recovers roughly 52 percent.

    The report concludes that in addition to supply-side effects, there is a robust demand-side rationale for expanded funding of ECCPE, with clear benefits in terms of decent employment creation, gender equality, poverty alleviation, and fiscal sustainability. These findings have important implications for expanded public investment in the broader social care sector as a strategy that embraces gender budgeting while promoting inclusive and sustainable growth.

  • Working Paper No. 838 | May 2015
    Linkages and Their Implications

    Unpaid work, which falls outside of the national income accounts but within the general production boundary, is viewed as either “care” or as “work” by experts. This work is almost always unequally distributed between men and women, and if one includes both paid and unpaid work, women carry much more of the burden of work than men. This unequal distribution of work is unjust, and it implies a violation of the basic human rights of women. The grounds on which it is excluded from the boundary of national income accounts do not seem to be logical or valid. This paper argues that the exclusion reflects the dominance of patriarchal values and brings male bias into macroeconomics.

    This paper shows that there are multiple linkages between unpaid work and the conventional macroeconomy, and this makes it necessary to expand the boundary of conventional macroeconomics so as to incorporate unpaid work. The paper presents the two approaches: the valuation of unpaid work into satellite accounts, and the adoption of the triple “R” approach of recognition, reduction, and reorganization of unpaid work, recommended by experts. However, there is a need to go beyond these approaches to integrate unpaid work into macroeconomics and macroeconomic policies. Though some empirical work has been done in terms of integrating unpaid work into macro policies (for example, understanding the impacts of macroeconomic policy on paid and unpaid work), some sound theoretical work is needed on the dynamics of the linkages between paid and unpaid work, and how these dynamics change over time and space. The paper concludes that the time has come to recognize that unless unpaid work is included in macroeconomic analyses, they will remain partial and wrong. The time has also come to incorporate unpaid work into labor market analyses, and in the design of realistic labor and employment policies.

  • This addendum to our June 2014 report, “Responding to the Unemployment Challenge: A Job Guarantee Proposal for Greece,” updates labor market data through 2014Q3 and identifies emerging employment and unemployment trends. The overarching aim of the report, the outcome of a study undertaken in 2013 by the Levy Institute in collaboration with the Observatory of Economic and Social Developments of the Labour Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labour, is to provide policymakers and the general public research-based evidence of the macroeconomic and employment effects of a large-scale direct job creation program in Greece, and to invite critical rethinking of the austerity-driven macro policy instituted in 2010 as a condition of the loans made to Greece by its eurozone partners. 

  • Public Policy Brief No. 138 | October 2014
    To mobilize Greece’s severely underemployed labor potential and confront the social and economic dangers of persistent unemployment, we propose the immediate implementation of a direct public benefit job creation program—a Greek “New Deal.” The Job Guarantee (JG) program would offer the unemployed jobs, at a minimum wage, on work projects providing public goods and services. This policy would have substantial positive economic impacts in terms of output and employment, and when newly accrued tax revenue is taken into account, which substantially reduces the net cost of the program, it makes for a comparatively modest fiscal stimulus. At a net cost of roughly 1 percent to 1.2 percent of GDP (depending on the wage level offered), a midrange JG program featuring the direct creation of 300,000 jobs has the potential to reduce the unemployed population by a third or more, once indirect employment effects are taken into account. And our research indicates that the policy would do all this while reducing Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio—which leaves little room for excuses.

  • Research Project Reports | August 2014
    The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty
    This report presents findings from a joint project of the Levy Economics Institute and the Korea Employment Information Service, with the central objective of developing a measure of time and income poverty for Korea that takes into account household production (unpaid work) requirements. Standard measurements of poverty assume that all households have enough time to adequately attend to the needs of household members—including, for example, caring for children. But this assumption is false. For numerous reasons, some households may not have sufficient time, and they thus experience “time deficits.” If a household officially classified as nonpoor has such a time deficit and cannot afford to cover it by buying market substitutes (e.g., hiring a care provider), that household will encounter hardships not reflected in the official poverty measure.   To get a more accurate calculus of poverty, we developed the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty (LIMTIP), a two-dimensional measure that takes into account both the necessary income and the household production time needed to achieve a minimum living standard. In the case of Korea, our estimates for 2008 (the last year for which data are available) show that the LIMTIP poverty rate of employed households was almost three times higher than the official poverty rate (7.5 percent versus 2.6 percent). The gap between the official and LIMTIP poverty rates was notably higher for “nonemployed male head with employed spouse,” “single female-headed” and “dual-earner” households. Our estimates of the size of the hidden poor—roughly two million individuals—suggest that ignoring time deficits in household production resulted in a serious undercount of the working poor, which has profound consequences for the formulation of policy. In addition, the stark gender disparity in the incidence of time poverty among the employed, even after controlling for hours of employment, suggests that the source of the gender difference in time poverty lies in the greater share of the household production activities that women undertake. Overall, current policies to promote gender equality and economic well-being in Korea need to be reconsidered, based on a deeper understanding of the linkages between the functioning of labor markets, unpaid household production activities, and existing arrangements of social provisioning—including social care provisioning.