The Impact of Social Institutions on the Economic Role of Women in Developing Countries
OECD Development Centre Working Paper No. 234
59 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2004
Date Written: May 2004
Donor agencies and policy makers tend to agree that increased access of women to education, health, credit, formal legal rights and employment opportunities, in conjunction with economic growth, will substantially improve the socio-economic role of women in developing countries. This paper challenges that view. It argues that these measures might not be sufficient if the institutional framework within a country constrains women from participating in economic activities. It finds that social institutions - laws, norms, traditions and codes of conduct - constitute the most important single factor determining women's freedom of choice in economic activities. They have not only a direct impact on the economic role of women but also an indirect one through women's access to resources like education and health care. The findings suggest that an institutional framework that disadvantages half of the adult population hinders development. To address gender inequalities effectively, policy makers and donors must think about and address institutional frameworks that discriminate against women, a task even more difficult than the tough exercises of increasing female enrolment rates or introducing sustainable micro-credit schemes.
Keywords: Social institutions, gender, developing countries, economic role, gender inequalities, donor agencies, institutional frameworks, policy makers, labour market, sustainable growth
JEL Classification: J16, J2, O19, H50, A13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation