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The Effect Of Women’s Economic Power In Latin America And The Caribbean
For the last decade economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has sharply accelerated, pushing poverty and inequality to historic lows in the most unequal region in the world.
Even a global economic downturn and a fourpercent contraction in the regional economy in 2009 could not stop the region’s progress and its significant reductions in inequality.
In 2012, as the world’s ongoing economic problems make optimistic predictions less certain and threaten to undermine gains against poverty and inequality, it is critical to better understand the structural forces that have promoted recent positive social outcomes. These include more inclusive labor markets, expanded safety nets, improved educational outcomes, macrostability and relatively high rates of growth.
This report explores how women have played a critical role in achieving the poverty declines of the last decade, with their labor market participation rates growing 15 percent from 2000 to 2010. It further considers how future progress will require increased female economic power and more effective policies to promote it.
Despite the impressive role in LAC’s poverty reduction played by the growth of women’s economic contribution, several key challenges remain which both affect women and potentially undermine poverty reduction. These include: labor market segmentation, wage gaps, and agency, the latter understood as the ability to make choices and to transform them into desired outcomes.
The report suggests focusing public policy on three priorities: expanding female labor market opportunities; improving female agency which — while important in its own right — has important potential benefits for equality of economic opportunities and assets, and supporting the growing number of poor single female-headed households. Along with these suggested policy priorities, strong monitoring and evaluation systems should be included to every extent possible.
The study ends with a look at the Gender Impact Evaluation Initiative, launched by the World Bank’s LAC Poverty, Gender and Equity unit to increase understanding of what works to promote greater gender equity. This new effort seeks to address critical gaps in knowledge about policies and interventions for women’s equality of assets, economic opportunities, and agency. The Initiative will be key to helping carry out suggested policy priorities.