Giving Compass’ Take:
• Andinet Woldemichael explains the economic gains to be had across Africa by expanding women’s participation in the labor market.
• What role can funders play in expanding women’s participation in the labor force? What logistical and cultural barriers prevent participation?
• Read about removing barriers to women’s labor force participation.
Differing levels of economic advancement, social stigma, and religion all govern norms on whether a woman should be in the labor market, her occupation, and compensation. While progress had been made in gender equality in global labor markets thanks to economic and social advancement, progress is more limited in Africa due to high poverty and gender discrimination.
Notably, the relationship between female labor force participation (FLFP) rate and economic development is “u-shaped” (Figure 2.3). At an extremely low level of income, where most African countries fall, women must work at the family farm or in household enterprises. As the economy advances and family income increases, the family “buys” back women’s (wives’) time for home production, such as care for children and the elderly. The exclusion of women from manual jobs, such as manufacturing and agriculture, due to social stigma as well as discrimination also contribute to the decline in the FLFP. It is only at a higher level of income and women’s education that we start to see closing gender gaps in labor markets.
In developing countries, including in Africa, 75 to 90 percent of non-agricultural employment is informal and low-paid work in which women are three times more likely to be employed as contributing family workers than their male counterparts—meaning women are often unpaid and vulnerable for exploitation. In this case, the policy priority should concentrate on gender equality in pay and protecting women from exploitation in the short term and on enabling women to become independent and successful entrepreneurs in the long term.
In countries on the decline and in the “middle dip” portion of the FLFP curve, the priority should be to achieve full and equitable participation of women in the labor market. Lack of affordable care for children and the elderly are key factors, as these constraints decrease FLFP rates in developing countries by 4.8 percentage points. Policies that increase access to affordable care could thereby increase female labor force participation rates.
Had African countries with lower relative female-to-male participation rates in 2018 had the same rates as advanced countries, the continent would have gained an additional 44 million women actively participating in its labor markets. By increasing gender equality in the labor market, the gain in GDP ranges from 1 percent in Senegal to 50 percent in Niger.
Read the full article about women’s participation in African labor markets by Andinet Woldemichael at Brookings.
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