Quick overview of work on women’s economic empowerment

  • Women’s economic empowerment is widely seen as a necessity for achieving sustainable development.
  • Women’s increasing entry into the labour market, however, has not been matched by a change in the gendered division of unpaid care work – the UNDP Human Development Report 2015 estimates women do 3 out of every 4 hours of unpaid work.
  • True economic empowerment requires a broader understanding that not only incorporates women’s entry into the labour market but also looks at the aspect of choice – whether to work, what work, where to work, and for how long, and includes a consideration of the care economy.
  • Concerns about care limit women’s choices on paid work, often forcing them into low paid, unsafe and precarious, informal work.
  • The negative effects that accompany the burden of juggling paid work and care work go beyond working women, also affecting their children (often girls) and older women who they may rely on for help in providing the care function.
  • A more progressive approach to women’s economic empowerment would look carefully at the balance between paid work and unpaid care work and how the provision of decent work can be more beneficially integrated with the needs of the care economy, for example by facilitating flexibility in working patterns for both men and women, and the provision of good childcare facilities. 
  • Our work on women’s economic empowerment aims to create and share knowledge on how policy and programming can generate a ‘double boon’: paid work that both empowers women and provides more support for unpaid care work responsibilities.