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Counting Women's Work: The Gendered Economy in the Market and at Home

The rise of women in economic and political arenas was notable in the 20th century. However, women continue to lag behind men in terms of recognition for their work. Women do similar sorts of work, but are usually paid less. These differences in wages cannot be explained solely by schooling or experience, but also reflect a lack of opportunities, poor access to credit, social restrictions or outright discrimination. At home, women continue to do far more child care and housework than men. For women, marketplace and household decisions are intertwined: women take jobs that enable them to more easily combine family commitments together with paid employment and these jobs tend to be lower-paid, part-time or informal, and lock women in a situation with low economic recognition.

For a long time, scholars and activists have emphasized the need to acknowledge women's full economic contribution. This project addresses this by incorporating women's non-market contributions into the market economy. Combining estimates of marketplace and household production by gender will produce indicators of gender equality that in turn will assist in the development of policies that enhance women's well-being. The project will bring into full view the economic lives of girls and women, in a comprehensive and systematic manner that has not been possible before. The project builds on previous investments of the National Transfer Accounts, which focuses on the different stages of the life cycle, by distinguishing men and women, thus enriching the existing economic measures of production and consumption.

The project is a joint effort of the Development Policy Research Unit at University of Cape Town, funded by IDRC, together with the University of California, Berkeley, funded by the Hewlett Foundation. The teams will work closely with about 10 national teams in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as other teams from high-income countries (not funded under this project), over a period of three years to produce consistent estimates, and to engage their national policy makers in recognizing women's economic contribution and the different policy options to enhance their well-being.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
36 months
IDRC Officer
Martha Melesse
Total Funding
CA$ 817,400.00
South America
South of Sahara
Employment and Growth
Employment and Growth
Institution Country
South Africa
Project Leader
Morne Oosthuizen
University of Cape Town

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