Pro-market economic policies and women’s economic wellbeing


Despite much scholarly research on a range of socio-economic and political effects of pro-market economic policies, scant research has been devoted to the gendered effects of these policies. This article advances the hypothesis that market-liberalising policies in five key areas — government size and spending, legal system and protection of property, access to sound money, freedom from excessive regulation, and economic openness — help women gain a more active role in the total labour force but do not ameliorate gendered economic discrimination. On the contrary, this article asserts that market-friendly economic reforms might contribute to the rise of women’s economic rights violations. Results from a panel of over 120 countries for the period from 1981 to 2011 indicate that pro-market economic policies are associated with an increased share of female employment in the labour force but less respect for women’s economic rights. Overall, the data analysis points to an overlooked, but important, contrast of more female employment yet less respect for women’s economic rights in freer economies. The results also present a dilemma for policymaking. Whereas pro-market policies and reforms might drive economic growth and create more employment opportunities for women, such policies and reforms might be implemented at the expense of women’s economic rights, which are crucial for the empowerment of women.

Publication Title

Journal of International Relations and Development