The Link between Gender Inequality and Economic Growth It is not generally seen that the economy and gender development are interconnected in terms of each other’s influence and their development process. However, this correlation is well-explained by the fact that if women’s employment rates were raised to 70 percent, which is closer to that of many developed nations, the annual Gross Domestic Product (GAP) of Asia would increase by up to 2-4 percent (United Nations in China, 2010). Indeed, economic growth has impacts on gender inequality levels both positively and negatively, whereas gender inequality hampers economic growth as a whole.
Connell (2009, 1 1) defines the term gender as “the structure of social relations that centers on the reproductive arena, and the set of practices that bring reproductive distinctions between bodies into social processes. ” Gender inequality refers to the unequal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men (ASSAI, 2001). Economic growth is defined by an increase in the capacity of an economy to produce goods and services, compared to one period to another (Riley, 2012).
For example, gender inequality can be a barrier to the process f development by weakening the ability of household members to engage in productive activities. At the same time, structural changes that accompany the development process can significantly weaken/loosen the constraints that women and men face when they work towards new economic approaches. This paper analyses the links between gender inequality and economic growth and the complexity associated with this relationship. In order to examine the link between gender inequality and economic growth, it is important to have a clear understanding of some key concepts.
Firstly, social construction is a key concept that is used to understand how people build and organize ideas, actions and thoughts around a perception through cultural and social influence (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2008). Next, gender relation is the interaction of different masculinity and femininity to shape the power dominance of the society (March et al, 1999). Moreover, globalization “is the process of transformation of local or regional phenomena into global ones. It is the notion of a shrinking world including unequal flows of labor, capital and ideas” (Stilling, 2002).
It is also crucial to understand gender accountability in analyzing the relationship between economic growth and gender inequality. Gender accountability refers to the process by which members of a society hold others accountable for transgressing or defying traditional social expectations of gender (West and Zimmerman, 1987). Gender performance is creating differences between women and men and their interaction with others which are not natural or biologically based (West and Zimmerman, 1987). Finally, gendered division of labor refers to the ways in which certain Jobs or tasks become gendered in a patriarchal society (March et al, 1999).
There are positive aspects of economic growth that help to shorten the gender gap, especially in the decision- making power within households despite the certain exceptional cases that function in the reverse order. In most circumstances, economic development reduces the disadvantages faced by women. Firstly, economic development plays a huge role in women education (World Bank, 2011 b). Women work under low-wage conditions partly because of the poverty at their homes. It is not that women prefer to supply labor at a very low wage, but they are forced to do so in order to manage the financial condition at home.
Once the economic stability at family level improves, the number of women who go into low-wage Jobs for their poor economic condition at home reduces and the low-wage Jobs would no longer be reserved for women. For example, the
It creates an environment for the employers to consider women as weakness and less productive (World Bank, 2011 b). Economic growth increases women’s health care that result in improved level of women’s fitness to any career. Eventually, sexist attitudes of employers about suitable tasks for women change. For example, the enrollment of women in Engineering, which requires field work, has been increasing day by day (Unguent, 2000). Thirdly, economic growth brings up changes in decision-making power of men and women at household level. It challenges the social construction that men are the breadwinners of a household.
Rising income levels at household level associated with increased household expenditures challenges the patriarchal system and creates pathways for women to enter into Job market. However, it might affect the gender relations at home that men would not accept their power to be shared. Siberia explains the use of women’s earnings in household spending: My husband likes that my income is for luxuries, for the little things that catch my fancy. Although sometimes I pay for household things, during difficult months. He tells me, it is his Job to provide for food, clothing, rent and other necessities. Siberia, 1995:) It portraits the men’s perception that they do not want their women to contribute towards the economy of the family due to the social construction of men as breadwinners. In contrast, economic growth as an outcome of globalization creates opportunities for women to become empowered and to report violence against women. Women are mostly exposed to different social contexts that in turn heighten awareness about gender equality and the need for alleviating gender discrimination that they were not aware of and women’s dependency on men.
My experience at AY-JAW is itself a good example of how an exposure to different social context can hence a person’s attitudes towards gender discrimination and violence. Five years back from now, if I were asked if it is fine for men to have the entire power within households, I would say yes’. However, if the same question is asked now, my answer would be ‘no’. Finalization of labor migration, which refers to the trend of growing employment of women which is possible mostly because of the expansion of technological improvement, trade and capital flows (Legal terms, Definitions and Dictionary, n. ). Also gives opportunities for women to get exposed to other countries where women can learn that they should get equal rights. Having experienced the effects of gender accountability in other countries and knowing that women’s equality is important, once they get back to their home societies, there is a high possibility that they will fight against gender discrimination. Exposure to different social context might lead women to be more aware about the social norms and patriarchy of their own society that favored men (Ridgeway, 1997).
They would eventually come forward to make changes in the society that results in reducing gender gap in the society. However, economic development does not always help to narrow down the gender AP; rather, in certain cases, it increases the socio-economic vulnerability of women. Despite the economic development and the increasing women’s participation in the labor force, the incidence of sex-selective abortions and the absolute number of ‘missing women’, coined by Mammary Seen (2003) refers to the terrible deficit of women in substantial parts of Asian and north Africa, which arises from sex bias in relative care, are growing.
The critical condition is further explained by the fact that “China and India together account for more than 85 million of the nearly 100 million missing” women estimated to have died from discriminatory treatment in health care, nutrition and nutrition access or pure neglect, or because they were never born in the first place” (United Nations in China, 2010). In rural areas of Asia, the social construction of femininity that all girls/women should get married is strongly followed. The societies develop a gendered centralization that parents take the responsibility of marrying women off once girl children are born itself (Slakes at el, 2003).
Women do not get enough gains from the new paid-employment opportunities. They are given opportunities to paid workforce, at the same time they re employed in insecure environment that does not make any changes in the level of gender inequality. For example, even though women are given permission by their husbands or families to work in garment industries, they are often abused by their employers, not allowed to go to toilets even when they are urgent (Siberia, 1995). Violence against women is high even when they work for longer hours than men do (Ridgeway, 1997).
After understanding how economic growth affects gender inequality, it is crucial to understand how gender inequality hampers economic growth. Most importantly, economic growth is hampered by the constraints that keep omen involved in unpaid work, and the unequal opportunities that favor men over women (Beerier et al 2004). Women’s Jobs in export industries such as textiles and garments have been important in generating foreign currency earnings. Dependence on women workers in labor-intensive, export-oriented manufacturing has become a common pattern across Asia as women’s share of manufacturing employment rose during their export drives.
Therefore, gender inequality has negative impacts on economic growth. Furthermore, gender inequality in education and employment hampers economic growth. The low level of access to education for women is linked with higher rates of fertility and lower savings rates. Rising fertility can reduce investment in children’s education and health. (Ridgeway, 1997). Moreover, inequality in education can contribute to women’s unequal household bargaining power, affecting the distribution of household resources.
The unequal decision-making power at household level might affect the overall household management, and thus prohibits the development process of households given the resources. For instance, a sole member making all the decisions would not be as effective as the incidence here both husband and wife together make decisions, with a mutual understanding of the benefit-cost analysis (Unguent, 2000). However, it is the social construction in Asian societies that a woman in a household being more educated would be considered as a threat to the men’s masculinity.
Men make sure that the income brought to home by women would not be spent to main household spending, but on luxuries (Siberia, 1995). Indeed, men preserve the socially constructed norm that men have the control over the income and transgressing would affect the gender relations. Additionally, systematic differences in investments in girls’ and boys’ education can lead to Job sector inefficiency due to distortion in skill levels (Bosnian, 2003). Investing too much in less-talented men and investing too little in competent women reduces the total productivity in the economy (Bosnian, 2003).
In other words, gendered division of labor arises where the labor queues become gender queues because employers rank males as more valuable workers than females (Resin and Ross, 1990). When employers hire workers, they take into consideration about the loss of their institutions’ productivity level, especially the maternity leave that women take (Timekeepers, 2012). Employers make an assumption that all women will get pregnant and have children. The assumption is basically developed from the socially constructed idea of femininity that all women will have children.
Against the assumption, the enforcement of maternity leave legislation in Taipei, China led to a 2. 5-percentage-point increase in women’s employment (Civilize and Rodgers, 2003). In some patriarchal societies, certain Jobs are allocated only for men. For example, in northern part of Sir Lankan, CNN (three wheeler) drivers were usually male, and the government introduced a plan that allows female to be CNN drivers. After some time, an accident occurred in which the fault was found to be on the side of CNN driver who is a female. Based on the incident, there were some controversies regarding whether to allow the women do be CNN drivers further.
However, the point to be noted here is that there were so many accidents held earlier to the particular event, and they were committed by male CNN drivers. No inquiries were done to the male drivers, but when the same incidence is caused by women, they held up to scrutiny. It again shows the gender discrimination in societies, and people being more critical when gender norms are transgressed. In addition, sexist unequal expectations of gender performance are other constraints that affect economic growth at the household levels.
Men and women are sometimes pressured to perform gender according to what is acceptable in their particular society, rather than thinking about rational choices about family income. For example, Sir Lankan male cleaners go to Middle Eastern countries to financially support their families (Near, 2010). Although they are involved in feminizes Jobs’ abroad, when they return to their societies, they do not keep involving in feminizes activities because they think this would be a wreath to their masculinity (Near, 2010).
As a result, men, who strongly support the patriarchal system of men as breadwinners of a family, fail minimize the costs within households by not accounting the female labor force participation. In order to address the barriers to the development of economy and gender, a strong foundation for policy implementations that alleviate the constraints that women face should be considered. These will include remedying heavy time burdens devoted to unpaid work, regulations that favor men, inadequate public infrastructure, insufficient access to agricultural inputs, discriminatory practices in the labor market, and social constructions.
Asian governments have also paid relatively limited attention to gendered vulnerabilities in their social protection policies (ILL and ADS, 2011). By decreasing gender inequality, from the household level to major indexes, a country’s overall economy can be developed at a faster pace (Ridgeway, 1997) Likewise, as economic development occurs, we have to make sure that it will not lead to a path in which gender inequality grows even more. Works Cited Beerier, G. , Y. Rodgers, and J. Civilize. 004. International Trade and Gender Wage Discrimination: Evidence from East Asia.