Investing employees, or by doing unpaid care

Investing in women’s economic empowerment has important linkages
with gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women
make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as
entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home. We know that
when more women work, economies grow. An increase in female labour force
participation—or a reduction in the gap between women’s and men’s labour force
participation—results in faster economic growth.  Evidence from a range of countries shows that
increasing the share of household income controlled by women, either through
their own earnings or cash transfers, changes spending in ways that benefit
children. Finally, we know that investments in human capital – especially increasing
women and girls’ education contributes to higher economic growth. Increased
educational attainment accounts for about 50 per cent of the economic growth in
OECD countries over the past 50 years, of which over half is due to girls
having had access to higher levels of education and achieving greater equality
in the number of years spent in education between men and women.

 

In India, women and girls remain disproportionately affected by
poverty, discrimination and exploitation. Under investment (and achievement) in
human capital – like education, health, and skills – combine with gender
discrimination to locate women  in
insecure, low-wage jobs,with only a small minority reaching positions of
leadership.   Such underinvestment curtails
women and girls’ access to economic assets such as work opportunities, land,
and loans, access to labor and trading markets, and in turn, the ability to
access and own incomes and make decisions. Additional barriers to productive
work and asset creation include deeply rooted social norms that limit their
choices and access to opportunities, and the lack of recognition and value
given to their dual roles as caregivers and breadwinners. 

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While we have sufficient understanding of the structural and
normative barriers and challenges to women’s work participation, market
integration, and agency andeffective ownership and decision making, there is
insufficient knowledge about how to overcome these challenges. The Initiative
for What Works for Women’s Economic Empowerment (IWW-WEE) aims to fill that
gap, providing new evidence that can inform social and economic policies and
interventions to improve women’s access to markets, resources and incomes, as
well as promote their agency and decision-making.  The IWW-WEE will focus its
testing-learning-evidence and data generation efforts on what works to  (1) Build women and girls’ access to economic resources, (2) Ensure quality of work and return on labour for women and
girls, (3) Address Intersectionality, exclusion and discrimination in the
labour market, (4) Foster effective and empowerment economic and financial inclusion, and
social protection,  (5) Reduce Unpaid work.  The lens of
empowerment will mediate this work as its seeks to build evidence on models and
solutions that foster women’s agency, ownership, control. and decision-making
in each of these domains.

 

Across these domains, the
program of work seeks to generate data and evidence on dimensions of women’s
economic inequality, the role of gender norms in restricting women’s work
participation, gender based discrimination and disempowerment of women and
girls – particularly some subgroups like Dalits, youth, and illterate women –
in the market and households, andd the nature of gender disparities in economic
access and achievement, and on (b) what works to build women’s meaningful
economic inclusion.  The current proposal aims to set-up a “hub” of
evidence for women economic empowerment research and outreach. The “hub” would
play a key role serving as a platform in India to syntheize and generate
evidence, promote “what works”  in
different contexts and has potential to scale. It aims to be
mulit-disciplinary, as well as have a strong culture gathering and synthesizing
evidence, and generate evidence through hypothesis testing in real world
settings, learning on the ground and disseminating on “what works”  

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