Publications on Gender disparities
Working Paper No. 1027 | August 2023Structural change has long been at the core of economic development debates. However, the gender implications of structural change are still largely unexplored. This paper helps to fill this gap by analyzing the role of structural change in the gender distribution of sectoral employment in sub-Saharan African countries. I employ aggregate and disaggregate measures of gender sectoral segregation in employment on a panel database consisting of 10 sectors and 11 countries during 1960–2010. Fixed effects and instrumental variables’ regression models show a significant, non-linear link between labor productivity and gender segregation. Increasing labor productivity depresses gender segregation at initial phases of structural change. However, further productivity gains beyond a certain threshold of sectoral development increases gender segregation. Country-industry panel data models complement the analysis by considering relative labor productivity as a determinant of sectoral feminization. The estimates suggest that manufacturing, utilities, construction, business, and government services are key to correcting gender biases in employment along the process of structural change.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Izaskun Zuazu
Scope and Effects of Reducing Time Deficits via Intrahousehold Redistribution of Household Production
Research Project Report, July 2021 | July 2021
Evidence from sub-Saharan AfricaGender disparity in the division of responsibilities for unpaid care and domestic work (household production) is a central and pervasive component of inequalities between men and women and boys and girls. Reducing disparity in household production figures as one element of the goal of gender equality enshrined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and feminist scholars and political activists have articulated that the redistribution of household production responsibilities from females to males is important for its own sake, as well as for achieving gender equality in labor market outcomes. A cursory examination of available cross-country data indicates that higher per capita GDP—the neoliberal panacea for most societal malaise—provides little bulwark against the gender inequality in household production.
Ajit Zacharias, Thomas Masterson, Fernando Rios-Avila, and Abena D. Oduro contribute to the literature on the intrahousehold distribution of household production by placing the question within a framework of analyzing deprivation, applying that framework to better understand the interactions between poverty and the gendered division of labor in four sub-Saharan African nations: Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa, and Tanzania. Central to their framework is the notion that attaining a minimal standard of living requires command over an adequate basket of commodities and sufficient time to be spent on home production, where meeting those requirements produces benefits for all—including those beyond the household.
Their findings motivate questions regarding the feasibility and effectiveness of redistribution of household responsibilities to alleviate time deficits and their impoverishing effects. By developing a framework to assess the mechanics of redistribution among family members and applying it to gender-based redistribution, they derive the maximum extent to which redistribution—either among all family members, between sexes, or between husbands and wives—can lower the incidence of time deficits. The conclude with a discussion of alternative principles of distributing household production responsibilities among family members and examine their impact on the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty (LIMTCP) and discuss some policy questions in light of their findings.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 865 | May 2016
Why Time Deficits Matter
We describe the production of estimates of the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty (LIMTIP) for Buenos Aires, Argentina, and use it to analyze the incidence of time and income poverty. We find high numbers of hidden poor—those who are not poor according to the official measure but are found to be poor when using our time-adjusted poverty line. Large time deficits for those living just above the official poverty line are the reason for this hidden poverty. Time deficits are unevenly distributed by employment status, family type, and especially gender. Simulations of the impact of full-time employment on those households with nonworking (for pay) adults indicate that reductions in income poverty can be achieved, but at the cost of increased time poverty. Policy interventions that address the lack of both income and time are discussed.Download:Associated Programs:The Distribution of Income and Wealth Gender Equality and the Economy The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty Hewlett Foundation–Levy Institute ProjectAuthor(s):
Research Project Report, August 2014 | August 2014
The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income PovertyThis 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.Download:Associated Programs:The Distribution of Income and Wealth Gender Equality and the Economy The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income PovertyAuthor(s):
Public Policy Brief No. 136, 2014 | August 2014
Assessing the Korean Experience Using the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income PovertyIn partnership with the Korea Employment Information Service, Senior Scholar Ajit Zacharias and Research Scholars Thomas Masterson and Kijong Kim investigate the complex issues of gender, changing labor market conditions, and the public provisioning of child care in Korea using the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty (LIMTIP), an alternative measure that factors in both time and income deficits in the assessment of poverty.Since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, lifetime employment and single-breadwinner households have given way to increased job insecurity, flexible work arrangements, and rapid growth in dual-earner households in Korea. Add to these factors rising labor force participation by women but little change in the highly unequal division of household production, and many women effectively face a double shift each day: paid employment followed by a second shift of household production.Recognizing the implications of the heavy burden of care work for women’s well-being and employment, Korea introduced public child-care provisioning, via a voucher system for low-income families, in 1992 (the program became universal in 2013). This study analyzes the impact of the voucher program on reducing time and income poverty, and reassesses the overall level of poverty in Korea. While it reveals a much higher level of poverty than official estimates indicate—7.9 percent versus 2.6 percent—due to time deficits, the outsourcing of child-care services reduced the LIMTIP rate from 7.9 percent to 7.5 percent and the number of “hidden poor” individuals from two million to 1.8 million. While these results show that the problem of time poverty in Korea extends beyond child-care needs, the impact of public provisioning through the voucher program clearly has had a positive impact on families with children.The main findings and policy recommendations resulting from this study are presented in detail in the research project report The Measurement of Time and Income Poverty in Korea: The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty.Download:Associated Programs:The Distribution of Income and Wealth Gender Equality and the Economy The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income PovertyAuthor(s):
Public Policy Brief No. 132, 2014 | May 2014Gauging the severity of poverty in a given country requires a reasonably comprehensive measurement of whether individuals and households are surpassing some basic threshold of material well-being. This would seem to be an obvious point, and yet, in most cases, our official poverty metrics fail that test, often due to a crucial omission. In this policy brief, Senior Scholar Ajit Zacharias, Research Scholar Thomas Masterson, and Research Associate Emel Memiş present an alternative measure of poverty for Turkey and lay out the policy lessons that follow. Their research reveals that the number of people living in poverty and the severity of their deprivation have been significantly underestimated. This report is part of an ongoing Levy Institute project on time poverty (the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty), which has produced research on Latin America, Korea, and now Turkey, with the aim of extending this approach to other countries.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Research Project Report, May 2014 | May 2014
The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Consumption Poverty for Turkey
Official poverty lines in Turkey and other countries often ignore the fact that unpaid household production activities that contribute to the fulfillment of material needs and wants are essential for the household to reproduce itself as a unit. This omission has consequences. Taking household production for granted when measuring poverty yields an unacceptably incomplete picture, and therefore estimates based on such an omission provide inadequate guidance to policymakers.
Standard measurements of poverty assume that all households and individuals have enough time to adequately attend to the needs of household members—including, for example, children. These tasks are absolutely necessary for attaining a minimum standard of living. But this assumption is false. For numerous reasons, some households may not have sufficient time, and they thus experience what are referred to as “time deficits.” If a household officially classified as nonpoor has a time deficit and cannot afford to cover it by buying market substitutes (e.g., hire a care provider), that household will encounter hardships not reflected in the official poverty measure. To get a more accurate calculus of poverty, we have developed the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Consumption Poverty (LIMTCP), a two-dimensional measure that takes into account both the necessary consumption expenditures and household production time needed to achieve a minimum living standard.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
One-Pager No. 46 | February 2014The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Consumption Poverty (LIMTCP) is a two-dimensional measure that takes into account both the necessary consumption expenditures and the household production time needed to achieve a minimum standard of living—factors often ignored in official poverty measures. In the case of Turkey, application of the LIMTCP reveals an additional 7.6 million people living in poverty, resulting in a poverty rate that is a full 10 percentage points higher than the official rate of 30 percent.Download:Associated Programs:The Distribution of Income and Wealth Gender Equality and the Economy The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income PovertyAuthor(s):
One Pager No. 45 | January 2014Official poverty lines in Korea and other countries ignore the fact that unpaid household production contributes to the fulfillment of material needs and wants that are essential to attaining a minimum standard of living. By taking household work for granted, these official estimates provide an inaccurate accounting of the breadth and depth of poverty—and can lead policymakers astray.Download:Associated Programs:The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty The Distribution of Income and Wealth Gender Equality and the EconomyAuthor(s):
Public Policy Brief No. 128, 2013 | April 2013
Is There Space to Promote Gender Equality in the Evolution of Social Protection?Social protection systems comprise public policies designed to prevent or alleviate economic insecurity and poverty. Throughout the developing world, social protection strategies and the dialogue surrounding them have recently been undergoing an important evolution. In this policy brief, Senior Scholar and Director of the Gender Equality and the Economy program Rania Antonopoulos highlights the opportunities and challenges for promoting gender equality and empowerment within this shifting policy landscape. Developed with financial support from the United Nations Development Programme, this brief is intended as an advocacy tool in the service of amplifying gender-informed policy considerations in country-level social protection debates.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Public Policy Brief No. 126, 2012 | November 2012
Why Time Deficits Matter for Poverty
We cannot adequately assess how much or how little progress we have made in addressing the condition of the most vulnerable in our societies, or provide accurate guidance to policymakers intent on improving each individual’s and household’s ability to reach a basic standard of living, if we do not have a reliable means of measuring who is being left behind. With the support of the United Nations Development Programme and the International Labour Organization, Senior Scholars Rania Antonopoulos and Ajit Zacharias and Research Scholar Thomas Masterson have constructed an alternative measure of poverty that, when applied to the cases of Argentina, Chile, and Mexico, reveals significant blind spots in the official numbers.Download:Associated Programs:The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty The Distribution of Income and Wealth Gender Equality and the EconomyAuthor(s):
One Pager No. 34 | October 2012
The Importance of Time Deficits
Standard poverty measurements assume that all households and individuals have enough time to engage in the unpaid cooking, cleaning, and caregiving that are essential to attaining a bare-bones standard of living. But this assumption is false. With the support of the United Nations Development Programme and the International Labour Organization, Senior Scholars Rania Antonopoulos and Ajit Zacharias and Research Scholar Thomas Masterson have constructed an alternative measure of poverty that, when applied to the cases of Argentina, Chile, and Mexico, reveals significant blind spots in the official numbers.Download:Associated Programs:The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty The Distribution of Income and Wealth Gender Equality and the EconomyAuthor(s):
Working Paper No. 732 | September 2012
The Employer of Last Resort as an Institution for Change
Over the past decade and a half the ability of the employer-of-last-resort (ELR) proposal to deliver full employment and price stability has been discussed at length in the literature. A different issue has received relatively little attention—namely, the concern that even when the ELR produces these macroeconomic benefits, it does so by offering “low-paying” “dead-end” jobs, further denigrating the unemployed. In this context, the important buffer stock feature of the ELR is misconstrued as a hydraulic mechanism that prioritizes macroeconomic stability over the program’s benefits to the unemployed.
This paper argues that the two objectives are not mutually exclusive by revisiting Argentina’s experience with Plan Jefes and its subsequent reform. Plan Jefes is the only direct job creation program in the world specifically modeled after the modern ELR proposal developed in the United States. With respect to macroeconomic stability, the paper reviews how it exhibits some of the key stabilizing features of ELR that have been postulated in the literature, even though it was not designed as an unconditional job guarantee. Plan Jefes also illustrated that public employment programs can have a transformative impact on persistent socioeconomic problems such as poverty and gender disparity. Women—by far the largest group of program beneficiaries—report key benefits to their communities, families, children, and (importantly) themselves from participation in Jefes.
Argentina’s experience shows that direct job creation programs that offer employment at a base wage can have the unique capacity to empower and undermine prevailing structures that produce and reproduce poverty and gender disparities. Because the latter two problems are multidimensional, the ELR cannot be treated as a panacea, but rather as an important policy tool that remedies some of the most entrenched and resilient causes of poverty and gender inequality. The paper examines survey evidence based on narratives by female participants in Jefes to assess these potentially transformative aspects of the ELR proposal.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Research Project Report, August 16, 2012 | August 2012
Implications for the Measurement of Poverty
Customarily, income poverty incidence is judged by the ability of individuals and households to gain access to some level of minimum income based on the premise that such access ensures the fulfillment of basic material needs. However, this approach neglects to take into account the necessary (unpaid) household production requirements without which basic needs cannot be fulfilled. In fact, the two are interdependent and evaluation of standards of living ought to consider both dimensions.
This report provides an analytical and empirical framework that includes unpaid household production work in the very conceptualization and calculations of poverty: the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty (LIMTIP). Based on this new analytical framework, empirical estimates of poverty are presented and compared with those calculated according to the official income poverty lines for Argentina, Chile, and Mexico. In addition, an employment-generating poverty-reduction policy is simulated in each country, and the results are assessed using the official and LIMTIP poverty lines.
The undertaking of this work was initiated as a result of joint discussions and collaboration between the Levy Economics Institute and United Nations Development Programme Regional Service Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly the Gender Practice, Poverty, and Millennium Development Goals areas. It addresses an identified need to expand the knowledge base, conceptually, analytically, and empirically, on the links between (official) income poverty and the time allocation of households between paid and unpaid work.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 726 | June 2012
The US Recession of 2007–09
The recession precipitated by the US financial crisis of 2007 accelerated the convergence of women’s and men’s employment rates, as men experienced disproportionate job losses and women’s entry into the labor force gathered pace. Using the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) data for 2003–10, this study examines whether the recession also occasioned a decline in disparity in unpaid work burdens and provided impetus for overall progress toward equity in the workloads, leisure time, and personal care hours of mothers and fathers. Controlling for the prerecession trends, we find that the recession contributed to the convergence of both paid and unpaid work only during the December 2007–June 2009 period. The combined effect of the recession and the jobless recovery was a move toward equity in the paid work hours of mothers and fathers, a relative increase in the total workload of mothers, and a relative decline in their personal care and leisure time.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Günseli Berik Ebru Kongar
Working Paper No. 705 | February 2012
Lessons from Argentina
The literature on public employment policies such as the job guarantee (JG) and the employer of last resort (ELR) often emphasizes their macroeconomic stabilization effects. But carefully designed and implemented policies like these can also have profound social transformative effects. In particular, they can help address enduring economic problems such as poverty and gender disparity. To examine how, this paper will look at the reform of Argentina’s Plan Jefes into Plan Familias. Plan Jefes was the hallmark stabilization policy of the Argentine government after the 2001 crisis. It guaranteed a public sector job in a community project to unemployed male and female heads of households. The vast majority of beneficiaries, however, turned out to be poor women. For a number of reasons that are explored below, the program was later reformed into a cash transfer policy, known as Plan Familias, that still exists today. The paper examines this reform in order to evaluate the relative impact of such policies on some of the most vulnerable members of society; namely, poor women. An examination of the Argentine experience based on survey evidence and fieldwork reveals that poor women overwhelmingly want paid work opportunities, and that a policy such as the JG or the ELR cannot only guarantees full employment and macroeconomic stabilization, but it can also serve as an institutional vehicle that begins to transform some of the structures and norms that produce and reproduce gender disparities. These transformative features of public employment policies are elucidated by turning to the capabilities approach developed by Amartya Sen and elaborated by Martha Nussbaum—an approach commonly invoked in the feminist literature. This paper examines how the access to paid employment can enhance what Sen defines as an individual’s “substantive freedom.” Any policy that fosters genuine freedom begins with an understanding of what the targeted population (in this case, poor women) wants. It then devises a strategy that guarantees that such opportunities exist and removes the obstacles to accessing these opportunities.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 690 | October 2011
Official poverty thresholds are based on the implicit assumption that the household with poverty-level income possesses sufficient time for household production to enable it to reproduce itself as a unit. Several authors have questioned the validity of the assumption and explored alternative methods to account for time deficits in the measurement of poverty. I critically review the alternative approaches within a unified framework to highlight the commonalities and relative merits of individual approaches. I also propose a two-dimensional, time-income poverty measure that accounts for intrahousehold disparities in the division of household labor and briefly discuss its uses in thinking about antipoverty policies.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
One-Pager No. 11 | August 2011There is little mystery to explaining our current high levels of unemployment. The Bureau of Economic Analysis recently revised its figures on GDP growth, and revealed that not only was the recession worse than we realized, but recent growth rates have been overstated as well. The hole, in other words, was deeper than we thought, and we have been climbing out of it at a slower pace. Simply put, the economy has failed to recover to the point where it can be expected to generate sufficient job growth. In the event that Congress should turn its attention away from the (so far) purely notional dangers of rising debt levels and back toward the immediate and tangible jobs crisis, it might consider a solution that has been overlooked so far: job creation through social care investment.
Working Paper No. 621 | September 2010
We need to go beyond the accepted notions relating to the role of women in the economy and society, especially in terms of what is recognized in mainstream theory and policy as “work” done by women. Thus, the traditional gender roles, with the man as the breadwinner and the woman in the role of housekeeper, do not explain the contribution of women in general. We also need to go beyond standard models to interpret the intrahousehold gender inequities. We do not gain much insight from dwelling on the cooperative-conflict type of bargaining concepts either, which are offered in the literature to unfold the process of women’s subordination within households. The issues relate to the intrahousehold power structure, which has an inbuilt bias against female members under patriarchy.
In terms of a policy agenda, especially in the context of social and economic disparities that affect women in particular, we need to recognize not only the collective social norms but also the unequal power relations that influence the sexual division of labor, both within the family and in the workplace. A notion of “gendered moral rationality,” complemented by the Rawlsian concept of “justice as fairness” (implying compensation for the underprivileged), can be used to devise policy that addresses the status of women both in the workplace and at home. We need a concerted move toward sensitization of gender issues and scrutiny entailing a gender audit at every level of activity. This may work at least partially until society is ready to remodel itself by treating men and women equally.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 562 | May 2009
A Gender Perspective
Widespread economic recessions and protracted financial crises have been documented as setting back gender equality and other development goals in the past. In the midst of the current global crisis—often referred to as “the Great Recession”—there is grave concern that progress made in poverty reduction and women’s equality will be reversed. Indeed, for many developing countries it is particularly worrisome that, through no fault of their own, the global economic downturn has exacerbated effects from other crises manifest in food insecurity, poverty, and increasing inequality. This paper explores both well-known and less discussed paths of transmission through which crises affect women’s world of work and overall wellbeing. As demand for textile and agricultural exports decline, along with tourism, job losses are expected to rise in these female-intensive industries. In addition, the gendered nature of the world of work suggests that women will see an increase in their share among informal and vulnerable workers worldwide, and will also supply more of their labor under unpaid conditions. The latter is particularly important in the context of developing countries, where many production activities take place outside the strict boundaries of the market. The paper also makes this point: examined through the prism of gender equality, the ability of the state to implement countercyclical policies matters greatly. If policy responses at the national and international levels end up aggravating inequities, gender equality processes face many more barriers, especially among the poor.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):