UN Women | Gender Equality and Inclusive Growth: Economic Policies To Achieve Sustainable Development

Edited by Diane Elson and Anuradha Seth
What does a gender-equitable inclusive growth process entail? What kinds of macro-level and labour market policies improve the distributional bias of growth and promote gender equality? These are the motivating questions of this book. It is aimed at two sets of development actors and policymakers: those whose goal is shared prosperity, and those for whom gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are central to any project of inclusion.
Chapter 1 introduces ways of conceptualizing gender-equitable inclusive growth. The starting point is the concept of economies as gendered structures, comprising the spheres of production, social reproduction and finance. The chapter discusses the ways in which gender inequality can be an impediment to shared prosperity. It recognizes that inclusion in the growth process via paid and unpaid production can be harmful rather than beneficial, such as through forced labour, unsafe working conditions and precarious income levels. The chapter proposes a concept of inclusive growth focused on securing gender-equitable growth in which inclusion in the growth process promotes, rather than harms, well-being. This requires changing the pattern and process of growth to ensure a more equal distribution of prosperity, including through actions to reduce the power of finance over economies, increase the bargaining power of labour vis-à-vis capital and increase investments in public services. Gender-equitable inclusive growth can be framed in terms of the progressive realization of economic and social rights, with priority given to the most disadvantaged groups.

Chapter 2 discusses the effect of macroeconomic policies on gender equality with the goal of identifying gender-equalizing policies that are consistent with overall rising living standards. The chapter identifies specific macroeconomic policies and tools, including an enlarged and revised role for fiscal and monetary policy, and indicates how public spending and tax policy as well as central bank tools can be designed to create fiscal space that promotes the goals of gender equality and inclusive growth. It highlights the importance of adopting macroprudential policies to protect against systemic risks in the financial sector – both because financial crises produce economic instability, and because the effects of such crises disproportionately weigh on women, and among women, those in subordinate racial/ethnic groups.

Chapter 3 takes up the question of industrialization from a gender perspective. It focuses on the sphere of production and points out that industrialization is central to the structural trans- formation that drives growth and increases in productivity. Likewise, trade liberalization plays a significant role in shaping the structure of production and productivity-enhancing structural change. To the extent women participate in industrialization and growth, they typically do so on inferior terms, with consequences not only for their well-being but also for distribution and growth. For this reason, a gender-equitable inclusive growth framework must prioritize the qual- ity of employment, and industrial and trade policies that promote, on an equal basis, decent work, with good wages, working conditions and labour rights so that the benefits of industrialization and growth are shared.

Chapter 4 takes a fresh look at investment, focusing on public investments and household invest- ments in human capacities. Specifically, it takes account of non-market investments involving unpaid household labour and makes the case that public investments that raise the productivity of this labour have the potential to contribute to greater gender equality and to inclusive growth. However, even as such investments in human development (health care and education, which are often provided in the household) raise the long-term productivity of labour and contribute to growth, these are not treated as investments but rather as consumption expenditures in public finance. This is why current fiscal rules and definitions regarding what is consumption or invest- ment need to be reconfigured. Doing so can expand fiscal space and help secure the financing needed for gender equality and for a more inclusive process of growth.

Chapter 5 examines how human rights can strengthen prospects for gender-equitable inclusive growth. The chapter shows how specific rights map onto key elements of inclusive growth. It indicates how to assess whether the policies adopted to promote economic growth adhere to human rights obligations and shows how human rights procedures can be used to help secure changes in the pattern and process of growth. It also demonstrates how the adoption of these norms and principles helps safeguard against the many forms of “harmful inclusion” that are currently occurring. The chapter highlights the ways in which the human rights perspective calls for less technocratic, and more transparent and accountable policy processes, in which deprived and unequally treated peoples can claim their rights.

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