Women’s Economic Empowerment and Inclusive Growth

This paper was commissioned by DFID and IDRC with a view to locating the growing concern with women’s economic empowerment within its growth research programs. Inclusive growth, as defined by IDRC, is growth which ensures opportunities for all sections of the population, with a special emphasis on the poor, particularly women and young people, who are most likely to be marginalized. Central to both IDRC’s and DFID’s agenda is a concern with decent jobs and the promotion of small and medium enterprise. That there is both an instrumental and an intrinsic rationale for such an explicit focus on women within such an agenda is suggested by recent research suggesting an asymmetry in the two-way relationship between gender equality and economic growth (see, for instance, WDR 2012). A detailed review of the evidence helps to spell this out (Kabeer and Natali, forthcoming). This evidence suggests that there is fairly strong empirical support for the claim that gender equality has a positive impact on economic growth. The relationship is most consistent with regard to education (the most widely studied) and employment (less frequently studied), holding for a variety of different countries and across differing time periods over the past half century.