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61st Labour Economics Conference, Patiala, India

7 December, 2019

Panel title: Rethinking the Discourse on Women’s Economic Empowerment

Organised by: Centre for Gender Studies at IHD, BMGF and IWWAGE

The continuing attention to gaps in women’s economic empowerment and declining LFP in India has opened up both persistent and newer barriers (and enablers) to women’s economic participation, agency, and decision-making vis-à-vis markets, states, households and communities. A wide range of investigations have been looking beyond questions of restrictive cultural norms to look at measurement of women’s work; labor market discrimination; non-sharing of domestic chores; forms of women’s unpaid work; lack of suitable jobs; low human capital investment including education and skilling; fertility; education and so on. Discussions around macroeconomic policies, trade regimes, low social protection especially for informal sector workers, and decreased expenditure on health care are often left out of the framing of women’s economic empowerment. Discussions on power that are core to the very idea of empowerment are also sometimes missing in more recent work rooted in behavioral economics. Women’s collective solidarity economies receive little mention in favor of large technocratic platform economies. We also see that globally the discourse around women’s economic empowerment has been expanding: the discourse around the world of work for women has been transforming thanks to the future of work discussions, the ILO’s widening the definition of ‘work’ to include women’s unpaid work, the ILO’s resolution on violence and work that goes beyond sexual harassment. More recently, looking at SHG programs through the lens of labor has also begun to bring newer theoretical and conceptual possibilities. This roundtable seeks to bring experts together to re-invigorate discussions on women’s economic empowerment in India and shape a research and policy agenda. These could include bringing together and synergies around macro, LFP, and empowerment and violence literatures, connecting across breaches in the WEE literature – such as market-based, labor-based, and norms-based approaches, and exploring where we need new and/or deeper theorizing for WEE in India.


Report_Rethinking the Discourse on Women’s Economic Empowerment