Archive for the ‘Gender and Equality’ Category

India’s Unexplored “Bill of Rights”: A Tool for Gender-Sensitive Public Policy

Lekha Chakraborty | March 3, 2017

The Justice Verma Committee submitted its report on January 23, 2013. In addition to recommendations for reforming laws related to sexual violence, harassment, and trafficking, it provided a comprehensive framework for gender justice through a proposed “Bill of Rights.” The Verma Committee’s recommendations are still waiting to be transformed into public policy.

We must not forget that this document represents an intense 30 days of work in response to a brutal gang rape of a young student in the heart of the nation’s capital in a public transport vehicle in the late evening of December 16, 2012. She was returning home with her friend after watching “Life of Pi.”

The power of this report is the acknowledgment (in the very first line of the report) that this brutal event represents a “failure of governance to provide a safe and dignified environment for the women of India, who are constantly exposed to sexual violence.” The acknowledgement is a clarion call for government policies to ensure dignity, safe mobility, and security for women.

“Bill of Rights”

The Bill of Rights is a proposed charter that would set out the rights guaranteed to women under the Constitution of India, against the backdrop of India’s commitment to international conventions. These rights are articulated as the right to life, security, and bodily integrity; democratic and civil rights; the right to equality and non-discrimination; the right to secured spaces; the right to special protections (for the elderly and disabled); and the right to special protection for women in distress.

The beauty of this Bill of Rights is that, unlike public policy approaches in which women facing differing challenges and circumstances are all treated the same, a careful analysis of heterogeneity is captured in these five dimensions (in this context, it is noteworthy that the Committee’s work is informed by Amartya Sen’s “capabilities approach”). Conceptually, the Bill of Rights lays out an analytical framework for gender budgeting to be conducted in the realm of “internal security.” When translating the Bill of Rights into policy, we need to examine existing budgets through a “gender lens” and rectify the deprivations thereby revealed.

Gender Issues in Public Policy

After every Union Budget, questions arise as to “what’s in it for women?”, but these debates have been largely been confined to just the rise and fall in allocations. The “rule of law” is a public good. The purpose of this post is to highlight this significant policy document—lying largely unexplored and with its recommendations mostly untouched—on women’s rights in India. Though the Verma Committee report was constituted to recommend “amendments to the Criminal Law so as to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault against women,” it is written in a broader context than just analyzing the legal codes.

The mere existence of the best-designed democratic institutions does not guarantee success: as noted by the Verma Committee report, even perfect laws would remain ineffective without the “individual virtuosity” of the human agency necessary for implementing the laws. Similarly, although gender budgeting—a silent revolution that integrates gender consciousness into fiscal policy frameworks—has been applied in the case of a few public expenditure budgets, it has remained sporadic and ineffective, in part due to insufficient capacity-building among the bureaucracy and a lack of accountability mechanisms.

Will the Fifteenth Finance Commission Integrate Gender?

In a co-operative federalism, it is high time that the Finance Commission “own” and integrate the gender concerns articulated in the Verma Committee’s proposed “Bill of Rights”—either in formula-based unconditional grants with a gender indicator/index as one of the criteria (just as a “climate change” variable appeared in the formula of the Fourteenth Finance Commission in sharing the divisible tax pool with the States), or as specific-purpose grants to the States to engage in meaningful gender-budgeting fiscal policy practices at the subnational level. This idea has been analyzed in my papers published by the IMF (2016) and the Levy Economics Institute (2016; 2014; 2010).

The Bill of Rights framed in the Justice Verma Committee Report can form the foundation for gender budgeting in a “law and order” context. Gender budgeting in criminal justice is a public good and needs effective planning and financing strategies, but it has so far been limited to the creation of the “Nirbhaya Fund” (designed to fund new schemes for the safety and security for women, with an initial allocation of Rs. 1,000 crores), which has been unused since 2013.

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“Stimulus” Isn’t the Best Reason to Support (or Oppose) Infrastructure Spending

Michael Stephens | December 15, 2016

A little while back, Pavlina Tcherneva appeared with Bloomberg’s Joe Weisenthal to talk about the potential infrastructure policy of president-elect Donald Trump. She noted that, contrary to initial assumptions, the upcoming administration may not end up pushing public-debt-financed infrastructure spending, and that if the program simply amounts to tax incentives and public-private partnerships, it won’t be nearly as effective. But Tcherneva added another important dimension to this debate. (You can watch the interview here):

Tcherneva’s point is that infrastructure investment should be determined primarily by the state of dilapidation or obsolescence of our roads, bridges, etc., and not so much by the moment we occupy in the business cycle.

There are some who would argue that the time for a large fiscal stimulus has passed, with unemployment at 4.6 percent and growth continuing apace. There’s a good argument to be made that we’re not at “full employment” even at this moment, and that there’s no need to back off on stimulus (though there’s still the question as to whether the Federal Reserve would attempt to depress economic activity by raising interest rates in response to any substantial fiscal expansion — and, additionally, whether the Fed would succeed in those circumstances). But the point is, where you stand on this debate regarding the business cycle and the meaning of full employment shouldn’t be the driving factor behind infrastructure policy — we shouldn’t necessarily pursue or avoid infrastructure repairs and improvements for those reasons.

Moreover, if you’re looking for a job creation program, which Tcherneva would argue ought to be the point of “stimulus,” there are more effective options. In particular, she advocates a job guarantee that would provide paid employment at a minimally decent wage to all who are willing and able to work. Among other reasons, Tcherneva notes that such a program, which automatically expands during economic downturns and contracts in better times, is more effective as a countercyclical stabilizer, as compared to spending on infrastructure projects (read the tweet-storm version of the argument here).

And given that infrastructure seems to have become the go-to spending-side stimulus policy, we might also want to think about the distributive implications. continue reading…

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Call for Papers: Gender and Macro Workshop in NYC

Michael Stephens | November 30, 2016

New York City
September 13–15, 2017

A workshop organized by the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College with the generous support of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

The goal of this workshop is to advance the current framework that integrates gender and unpaid work into macroeconomic analysis and enables the development of gender-aware and equitable economic policies. We are interested in contributions that address the gender implications of macroeconomic processes and policies and examine mechanisms that link gender inequalities to macroeconomic outcomes. These may include but are not limited to:

  • Incorporation of the realm of unpaid productive activities into economy-wide models (e.g., SAM, CGE).
  • Analysis of the links that connect economic structure (e.g., sectoral composition of economy, degree of openness) and growth regimes (e.g., wage-led versus investment-led growth) with women and men’s economic outcomes and gender inequalities.
  • Assessment of the channels through which macroeconomic policies influence women’s and men’s economic outcomes and gender inequalities. These include fiscal policies and monetary policies related to interest rates, exchange rates, and financial markets.
  • Evaluation of the mechanisms whereby gender inequalities influence macroeconomic outcomes, such as aggregate output and employment and their sectoral composition, inflation, budget deficits, and current account balance.
  • Aspects of interconnections between unequal international economic relations (trade and finance) and gender inequalities.

The types of gender inequalities to be modeled may potentially encompass inequalities in care and unpaid work, labor force participation, employment composition (by sector and/or type of employment, such as formal or informal), education, and access to and utilization of social and financial services.

We invite theoretical contributions that utilize existing and novel macroeconomic modeling approaches as well as empirical studies, in particular those focusing on the dimensions of gender inequalities relevant to the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and other low-income economies. We are also interested in papers that provide a comprehensive picture of the state of the art, identify gaps, and indicate directions for future research.

Accommodation and travel-related expenses will be covered by the workshop organizers. Please submit your abstract using the form found here.

If you have any questions, please contact Ajit Zacharias at zacharia@levy.org.

Important dates:
500-word abstract due January 25, 2017
Acceptance notifications e-mailed March 1, 2017
Final paper due July 31, 2017

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The Problem with “Gender-Blind” Economics

Michael Stephens | October 7, 2016

Pavlina Tcherneva joins Laura Flanders to discuss the need for a more gender-aware economics:

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Folbre on Gender and Economics

Michael Stephens | February 8, 2016

Senior Scholar Nancy Folbre was interviewed by Woman’s Work on the wage gap and women’s underrepresentation in economics:

Folbre: [M]arket logic doesn’t apply to care of dependents, a more traditionally feminine obligation. Children, the sick, and the frail elderly don’t fit the preconditions for consumer sovereignty in market exchange. Most care of dependents takes place outside the market. Women generally take more responsibility for this care than men do. …

The whole concept of concern for other people or interdependent utilities or obligations for other people, these are largely absent from the market paradigm. The textbook assumption is that participants in the market don’t care about other people, they have independent preferences. They are basically making decisions based on prices and income. It’s a very narrow, stripped down characterization. In some instances, it may be accurate. But a lot of the work that women, in particular, do doesn’t involve impersonal transactions.

We live in a world shaped by a moral division of labor that is highly gendered.

Read the rest here.

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Want More – and Better – Jobs? Put Women in Charge

Tamar Khitarishvili | December 10, 2015

I was recently in Tbilisi to participate in a conference that took stock of what we know about the challenges of job creation in the South Caucasus and Western CIS.

While researching gender inequalities in the labour markets of these countries, I searched for evidence on how the challenge of job creation can be overcome without perpetuating gender inequalities in the region, and preferably, by reducing them.

I quickly discovered that there was no simple answer to this question. Nevertheless, I came away with a couple of key insights.

One was that expanding women-owned businesses could be a way to create more and better jobs.

Female-owned businesses not only tend to operate in labour-intensive sectors but – and more surprisingly – they have greater scale economies than male-owned businesses, which means that their performance benefits more from expansion.

Importantly, they tend to hire proportionately more women.

For example, in 2009 in Georgia, almost 60 percent of full-time workers in firms where women were among the owners were female, compared to 31 percent in firms without women owners.

This suggests that if we push for more female-owned businesses, we can create better jobs. It also suggests that private-sector development policies would be more effective if they had stronger gender components.

For example: Would tax breaks for start-ups with their own daycare facilities increase business formation rates?

Secondly, my research further convinced me of the need to tackle the issue of care work, a burden borne mostly by women.

Childcare burdens are a major factor preventing women-owned businesses from expanding and generating wage employment, which we know makes a dramatic difference in empowering them.

Childcare burdens also prevent women from seeking wage employment. Therefore, alleviating childcare constraints can carry us a long way towards expanding women’s economic opportunities.

It helps that, as independent new research finds, the expansion of the childcare sector directly creates more and better jobs for women – as well as for unemployed men. It is heartening that UN organizations are supporting such work.

Most certainly, a comprehensive approach will be needed to tackle the challenge of achieving inclusive job growth in the region and beyond.

Nevertheless, all this tells us that taking a gender lens to employment creation is an important part of the solution.

(cross-posted at UNDP’s Voices from Eurasia)

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Call for Papers: Gender and Macroeconomics Conference

Michael Stephens | June 11, 2015

Gender and Macroeconomics: Current State of Research and Future Directions

A conference organized by the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College with the generous support of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

BGIA, New York City
108 W. 39 St., Suite 1000A
March 9–11, 2016

Call for Papers

The goal of this conference is to advance the current framework that integrates gender and unpaid work into macroeconomic analysis and enables the development of gender-aware and equitable economic policies. We are especially interested in topics relevant to Sub-Saharan African countries, including but not limited to:

  1. Relationships between economic structure (e.g., the relative importance of the service sector, agriculture, the care economy, trade, etc.), growth regime (wage-led versus investment-led growth), and gender inequities.
  2. Mechanisms and the extent to which unpaid work constrains women’s participation in paid work and access to economic opportunities.
  3. Implications of women’s labor market participation for their well-being and for intrahousehold allocation of time.
  4. Structural, macroeconomic, and microeconomic aspects of women’s employment in the informal sector.
  5. Formulation and analysis of gender-aware policy interventions.
  6. Frameworks for integrating the role of unpaid work in measures of well-being (e.g., time and income poverty).

We invite both theoretical and empirical studies and encourage submissions that employ innovative methodologies and new datasets. We are also interested in papers that provide a comprehensive picture of the state of the art, identify gaps, and indicate directions for future research.

Accommodation and travel-related expenses will be covered by the conference organizers. Please send your abstract via e-mail to Ajit Zacharias (zacharia@levy.org).

Important dates:

500-word abstract due July 1, 2015
Acceptance notifications e-mailed September 1, 2015
Final paper due February 1, 2016

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Modi’s Budget and the New Macroeconomic Policy Consensus in India

Lekha Chakraborty | July 21, 2014

What has struck me about Modi’s maiden budget is not the fiscal arithmetic, but the framework. And while this note confines itself to analyzing the budgetary framework rather than the numbers, it should be noted that the effectiveness of the fiscal arithmetic has gone for a toss with the announcement of token provisions on too many programmes with too little money. The underlying framework of the speech revealed the thematic priorities of the Modi government, which were twofold: (i) growth revival and (ii) macroeconomic stability. This sets the track.

The general budget was simultaneously ensuring “continuity” and “change.” The continuity elements in the budget may be designed to ensure a bipartisan approach in tackling issues of national interest, especially in the case of fiscal consolidation and the “rights-based” public policy decisions (e.g., employer of last resort, food security) of earlier governments. However, the changes suggested in the budget, in terms of monetary framework, are disturbing. continue reading…

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New Book on the Gender Impacts of the Global Economic Crisis

Michael Stephens | December 17, 2013

A new volume edited by the director of the Levy Institute’s Gender Equality and the Economy program, Rania Antonopoulos:

Gender Perspectives and Gender Impacts of the Global Economic Crisis

With the full effects of the Great Recession still unfolding, this collection of essays analyses the gendered economic impacts of the crisis. The volume, from an international set of contributors, argues that gender-differentiated economic roles and responsibilities within households and markets can potentially influence the ways in which men and women are affected in times of economic crisis.

Looking at the economy through a gender lens, the contributors investigate the antecedents and consequences of the ongoing crisis as well as the recovery policies adopted in selected countries. There are case studies devoted to Latin America, transition economies, China, India, South Africa, Turkey, and the USA. Topics examined include unemployment, the job-creation potential of fiscal expansion, the behavioral response of individuals whose households have experienced loss of income, social protection initiatives, food security and the environment, shedding of jobs in export-led sectors, and lessons learned thus far. From these timely contributions, students, scholars, and policymakers are certain to better understand the theoretical and empirical linkages between gender equality and macroeconomic policy in times of crisis.

From the table of contents: continue reading…

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The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty

Thomas Masterson | March 23, 2012

I’d like to take a moment to give a brief report on some research that my colleagues Ajit Zacharias, Rania Antonopoulous, and I have been working on as a result of collaboration between the Levy Economics Institute and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Service Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean (RSCLAC), particularly the Gender Practice, Poverty, and Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Areas. It addresses an identified need to expand our understanding of the links between income poverty and the time allocation of households, and between paid and unpaid work. Policies to combat poverty and promote equality require a deeper and more detailed understanding of the linkages between conditions of employment, unpaid household production, and existing arrangements of social provisioning—including social care provisioning.

Income poverty is customarily judged by the ability of individuals and households to gain access to some level of minimum income based on the premise that such access ensures the fulfilment of basic material needs.  However, this approach neglects to take into account the necessary (unpaid) household production requirements, without which basic needs cannot be fulfilled. Households differ in terms of their household production requirements and also in terms of the time their members have available to meet the requirements, so it should not be assumed that all households can meet these requirements. In order to promote gender equality, it is imperative to understand how labor force participation and earnings interact with household production responsibilities, as it is already well established that women contribute their time disproportionately to unpaid work.

We provide an analytical and empirical framework that includes unpaid household production work in the concept and measurement of poverty. Our approach shows that awareness of gender differences (especially in unpaid work) can bring to the forefront a ‘missing’ but key analytical category that allows for an improved measurement of poverty, and a deeper and more precise poverty classification of households and individuals. Future posts will delve more into policy ramifications of this work. In this post, I want to report on two of the headline results of our research.

Our alternative measure is a two-dimensional measure of income and time poverty, which we refer to as the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty (LIMTIP). Time poverty, especially when coupled with income poverty, imposes hardships on the adults who are time-poor as well as their dependents, particularly the children, elderly, and sick. Income poverty alone does not convey enough useful information about their deprivation. Our measure can shed light on this phenomenon. My colleague Ajit Zacharias has published a working paper that lays out the theoretical underpinnings of the measure, and I have a working paper that outlines the methods used to construct the data sets we used to create the measure for Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.

The first important result of our project is that the size of the hidden poor, namely those with incomes above the official threshold but below the LIMTIP poverty line, is considerable in all three countries (Table 1). The LIMTIP income poverty rate for Argentina is 11.1 percent, compared to 6.2 percent for the official poverty line. For Chile, adjusting for time deficits increases the poverty rate to 17.8 percent from 10.9 percent for the official line. And in Mexico, the poverty rate increases to 50 percent from an already-high 41 percent. This implies that the households in hidden poverty in Argentina, Chile, and Mexico comprise, respectively, 5, 7, and 9 percent of all households.

The second important result of taking time deficits into account is that it dramatically alters our understanding of the depth of income poverty. The average LIMTIP income deficit (the time-adjusted poverty line minus household income) for poor households was 1.5 times higher than the official income deficit in Argentina and Chile and 1.3 times higher in Mexico. Thus, official poverty measures grossly understate the unmet income needs of the poor population. From a practical standpoint, this suggests that taking time deficits into account while formulating poverty alleviation programs will significantly shift both the coverage (including the ‘hidden poor’ in the target population) and the benefit levels (including the time-adjusted income deficits where appropriate).

Table 1 Official, LIMTIP, and ‘Hidden’ Poverty Rates and Number of Poor (thousands)

Official income poverty

LIMTIP income poverty

‘Hidden poor’

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Argentina

60

6.2

107

11.1

47

4.9

Chile

165

10.9

271

17.8

106

6.9

Mexico

10,718

41.0

13,059

50.0

2,341

9.0

 

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