While researching gender inequalities in 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.
We want to hear from you: What are some other ways we can end inequality in the workplace?
Tweet your answers using #talkinequality or leave a comment in the space below!