Globalization Narrows Gender Gap: World Bank

Andrew Mason, an economist with the World Bank, has found that globalization not only reduces poverty and raises income but also helps narrow gender inequalities in education, nutrition, and health. However, he cautions, governments need to continue their efforts to reduce inequalities. Although export promotion has created millions of new jobs for women "at wages higher than in traditional sectors of employment" in some countries, educating women about their rights and improving their “legal literacy” are also important. Trade unions that strengthen women’s collective bargaining power must also be established and protected. – YaleGlobal

Globalization Narrows Gender Gap: World Bank

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Economic globalization has been proven able to reduce gender inequalities across the world, a senior economist at the World Bank said on Wednesday.

However, globalization itself was not enough, and the support of governments was needed to step up efforts to eradicate gender disparities, said Andrew Mason.

"Rising income and falling poverty levels, which are the benefits of globalization and trade openness, tend to reduce gender disparities in education, nutrition and health," said Mason, during a teleconference broadcasted directly from the World Bank's headquarters in Washington D.C.

Dozens of women activists from Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam participated at the teleconference.

The teleconference, titled "Globalization and Gender", was part of a series of dialogues on globalization which have been held by the World Bank since last month.

According to Mason, due to economic development successes, families were able to earn a higher income and increase their investment in education for girls and women.

This does not happen in poorer income households, as they are forced to allocate educational opportunities solely to the male children, due to their limited budget, ignoring the women, said Mason.

Mason said that rapid economic development, as a result of globalization, could also strengthen demand for female labor, bringing more women into employment.

"In Bangladesh, export-oriented garment factories have created about 2 million new jobs for women at wages higher than in traditional sectors of employment," said Mason.

Mason was a member of a World Bank team that conducted research titled "Engendering Development", which was held last year.

The report had a clear message; that ignoring the gender issue could come at a great cost to development.

Powerful evidence from Indonesia, as presented by researcher Nisha Agrawal, showed that globalization had contributed to narrowing gender disparities.

In her paper available to the teleconference participants titled "the Impact of Liberalization on Employment and Earnings" published by the World Bank, Agrawal discovered that female real earnings grew twice as much as male workers in the manufacturing sector at the end of the 1980s.

According to Agrawal, industrial liberalization by the Indonesian government in 1986 had contributed to the overall increase in the income of female workers.

However, globalization could also pose a danger to the global effort to narrow the gender gap, Mason warned.

"The East Asia crisis (which was caused by globalization) led to more home-based work contracts -- and less certain employment terms -- mostly among female workers," said Mason, adding that this had resulted in the lowering of female earnings in the region.

Given the benefits and losses from globalization, Mason suggested governments should carry out efforts to stifle the losses.

Women are less aware of their rights, therefore the government could help campaigning to promote legal literacy among women.

The government must also ensure that women's interests are represented in a collective bargaining effort in the workplace, through the presence of trade unions, said Mason.

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