Throughout its chapters, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda establishes a strong link between gender equality and women’s empowerment on one hand, and achieving sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and sustainable development on the other. Moreover, it calls for gender mainstreaming in the formulation and implementation of all financial, economic, environmental and social policies.
The Addis Agenda specifically:
- Affirms that trade can help promote productive employment and decent work, women’s empowerment and food security, a reduction in inequality, and can contribute to achieving the SDGs under the condition that appropriate supporting policies, infrastructure and an educated work force are in place
- Recognizes women’s critical role as producers and traders, and commits to address their specific challenges in order to facilitate women’s equal and active participation in domestic, regional and international trade
Trade policy influences economic empowerment of women as producers or consumers through, inter alia, impacts on wages and price changes for consumption products. UNCTAD examined key differences and similarities of the trade and gender nexus in the context of two regional trade liberalization entities: the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR). Despite differences in terms of the stages of development, extent of gender inequalities, and legal frameworks on gender equality, the trade and gender implications of regional integration are very similar across the two regions. In both regions, the process of regional integration has been accompanied by a shift of sectoral employment structures towards the services sector, which absorbs the largest share of total female employment, particularly in MERCOSUR. However, in services, women are segregated in lower-skilled services sectors.
As regards the manufacturing sector, regional tariff liberalization contributed towards a feminization of labour: it increased the female employment share in manufacturing firms, but mainly for workers involved in basic tasks. There was little change for those in charge of more managerial responsibilities. This could be explained by the fact that the gender wage gap makes female workers a source of competitive advantage for exporting firms; hence the demand for their labour tends to rise in the unskilled and labour-intensive modes of production. Another reason for this may be that trade-induced technological upgrading reduces the need for physically demanding skills, in turn improving employment opportunities for women relative to men.
A review of trade policies of 111 WTO members from 2014 to 2018 shows that most members (about 70 per cent) have integrated women’s empowerment in their national or regional trade strategy in order to enhance women’s workforce participation; for example, some strategies aim at promoting female employment and access to male-dominated economic sectors.