The unequal treatment of women in the law is one of the most visible forms of gender inequality. Prevalent legal constraints on the basis of gender prevent women, and thereby economies, from reaching their true potential. In this regard, this paper (i) documents the evolution of gender discriminatory laws around the globe, and (ii) sheds light on the role of legal gender equality in income convergence across countries. It shows that despite the remarkable progress toward gender equality in the law over the last five decades, the legal environment across the world is still far from providing a level playing field for women. Moreover, cross-country gaps in gender discriminatory laws have persisted and even widened over the years, meaning that some countries have lagged behind the progress in repealing the laws that act as a barrier to women’s economic inclusion. Based on a global sample since the 1970s, this paper finds that greater gender equality in the law facilitates cross-country income convergence over time. The results call for action and provide a reason to be optimistic going forward. They imply that legal reforms supportive of gender equality, which could indeed be actionable in the shorter term, help poorer countries catch up with the living standards in the advanced economies. These offer a window of opportunity in the post-Covid-19 period, given the adverse effects of the pandemic on economic growth and gender gaps.
While digital financial services have made access to finance easier, faster, and less costly, helping to broaden digital financial inclusion, its impact on gender gaps varies across countries. Moreover, women leaders in the fintech industry, although growing, remain scarce. This paper explores the interaction between ‘women’ and ‘fintech’ by examining: (i) the role of women leaders on firm-level performance in the fintech industry; and (ii) the determinants of gender gaps in the usage of digital services to better understand the cross-country differences. Results indicate that greater gender diversity in the executive board is associated with better performance of fintech firms.With regard to determinants of the gender gaps in the usage of digital financial services, we find that higher financial and digital literacy of women is associated with lower gender gaps in digital financial inclusion, and that socio-cultural factors also play a key role.
Fintech, which delivers financial services digitally, promises to promote financial inclusion and close the gender gap. Using a novel fintech dataset for 114 economies worldwide, this paper shows that fintech adoption significantly improves female employment and reduces gender inequality, the effect being more pronounced in firms without traditional financial access. Fintech not only increases the number and ratio of female employees in the workforce, but also mitigates financial constraints of female-headed firms. Digital divide and poor institutions weaken such benefits. Endogeneity is accounted for by a fixed effects identification strategy. We conclude by providing policy recommendations and outlining avenues for future research.
This paper investigates labor market dynamics in Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic drawing on macro and micro data. The pandemic and related containment measures had a large negative impact on employment, labor force participation, earnings, and labor market mobility, although policy support through furlough schemes partially mitigated the rise in unemployment. Our results indicate that industry effects were a crucial driver of labor market outcomes for different groups of employees — women, younger age groups, nonregular, self-employed, and low-income workers accounted for a disproportional share of employment in the hardest hit industries. We also find empirical evidence for the need to improve childcare and related support, training and upskilling offerings, and teleworking availability, and the role of skill mismatches in reducing labor market mobility and resource reallocation.
Ms. Era Dabla-Norris, Carlo Pizzinelli, and Jay Rappaport
Labor markets in the UK have been characterized by markedly widening wage inequality for lowskill (non-college) women, a trend that predates the pandemic. We examine the contribution of job polarization to this trend by estimating age, period, and cohort effects for the likelihood of employment in different occupations and the wages earned therein over 2001-2019. For recent generations of women, cohort effects indicate a higher likelihood of employment in low-paying manual jobs relative to high-paying abstract jobs. However, cohort effects also underpin falling wages for post-1980 cohorts across all occupations. We find that falling returns to labor rather than job polarization has been a key driver of rising inter-age wage inequality among low-skill females. Wage-level cohort effects underpin a nearly 10 percent fall in expected lifetime earnings for low-skill women born in 1990 relative to those born in 1970.
Mrs. Katharine M Christopherson Puh, Audrey Yiadom, Juliet Johnson, Francisca Fernando, Hanan Yazid, and Clara Thiemann
It is well established that a wide range of legal impediments in countries’ domestic laws have prevented women from achieving full economic empowerment, which in turn has negative macroeconomic implications. In many countries, laws often reflect and perpetuate gender norms that limit women’s economic participation, and removal of these impediments through legal reform has been shown to be an effective method to catalyze greater participation of women in the economy—along with the related macroeconomic benefits. Once legal barriers are removed and provisions for more equal treatment under the law are embedded, the law can also be employed as a powerful tool to incentivize women to pursue equal opportunities, change mindsets regarding the role of women, and hold institutions and individuals accountable for achieving results. Accordingly, it is imperative for countries to focus on eliminating existing legal impediments and designing appropriate incentives to increase women’s participation in the economy. This paper goes beyond previous Fund work by categorizing the key sources of laws that impede women’s economic empowerment, as well as ways in which the law can be used as a tool to create behavioral changes and shifts in perceptions of women in the economy. Case studies of six countries (Iceland, Peru, Rwanda, The Philippines, Tunisia, and the United States) that rank high in gender equality in their respective regions demonstrate how legal reforms have been implemented in differing contexts to help achieve women’s economic empowerment. Given the relevance to the Fund’s mandate, the paper also notes the case for a stepped-up role for the IMF in advising on legal reforms that remove barriers to, and incentivize, women’s economic empowerment. Although this paper highlights dominant belief systems and cultural norms that have contributed to limiting the economic empowerment of women, it does not intend to render any judgment on these systems or norms.
Maria Delgado Coelho, Aieshwarya Davis, Mr. Alexander D Klemm, and Ms. Carolina Osorio Buitron
This paper provides an overview of the relation between tax policy and gender equality, covering labor, capital and wealth, as well as consumption taxes. It considers implicit and explicit gender biases and corrective taxation. On labor taxes, we discuss the well-established findings on female labor supply and present new empirical work on the impact of household taxation. We also analyze the impact of progressivity on pay gaps and labor supply. On capital and wealth taxation, we discuss the implications of lower effective capital income taxation on the personal income tax burden gap across genders. We show that countries with relatively low female shares of capital income and wealth also tend to tax property and inheritances particularly lightly. On consumption taxes, we cover taxes on female hygiene products and excise taxes, which we assess in relation to externalities and differences in consumption patterns across genders.
The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns have led to a rise in gender-based violence. In this paper, we explore the economic consequences of violence against women in sub-Saharan Africa using large demographic and health survey data collected pre-pandemic. Relying on a two-stage least square method to address endogeneity, we find that an increase in the share of women subject to violence by 1 percentage point can reduce economic activities (as proxied by nightlights) by up to 8 percent. This economic cost results from a significant drop in female employment. Our results also show that violence against women is more detrimental to economic development in countries without protective laws against domestic violence, in natural resource rich countries, in countries where women are deprived of decision-making power and during economic downturns. Beyond the moral imperative, the findings highlight the importance of combating violence against women from an economic standpoint, particularly by reinforcing laws against domestic violence and strengthening women’s decision-making power.
Virginia Alonso-Albarran, Ms. Teresa R Curristine, Gemma Preston, Alberto Soler, Nino Tchelishvili, and Sureni Weerathunga
Achieving gender equality remains a significant challenge, that has only deepened with the on-set of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gender budgeting (GB) can help promote gender equality by applying a gender perspective to fiscal policies and the budget process. This paper takes stock of GB practices in G20 countries and benchmarks country performance using a GB index and data gathered from an IMF survey. All G20 countries have enacted gender focused fiscal policies but the public financial management (PFM) tools to operationalize these policies are far less established. We find that notwithstanding heterogeneity across countries, the average G20 level of GB practice is relatively low. More progress has been made establishing GB frameworks and budget preparation tools than with budget execution, monitoring and auditing. Too few countries assess the upfront impact of policies on gender and/or evaluate ex-post the effectiveness of policies and programs. Where GB features are in place, they tend to operate as an ‘add-on’, rather than a strategic and integral part of resource allocation decisions. Progress with GB does not appear to be dependent on the level of country development. Key to future efforts will be harnessing opportunities for integrating GB tools into existing PFM systems and more closely linking GB initiatives with PFM reforms.
Zidong An, Mr. John C Bluedorn, and Gabriele Ciminelli
The negative and stable relationship between an economy’s aggregate demand conditions and overall unemployment is well-documented. We show that there is a large degree of heterogeneity in the cyclical sensitivities of unemployment across worker and economy groups. First, unemployment is more than twice as sensitive to aggregate demand in advanced as in emerging market and developing economies. Second, youth’s unemployment is twice as sensitive as that of adults’. Third, women’s unemployment is significantly less sensitive to demand than men’s in advanced economies. These findings point to the highly unequal impacts of the business cycle across worker and economy groups.