Evidence on young women

On average, women make up 40 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, ranging from 20 percent in Latin America to 50 percent or more in parts of Africa and Asia. They generally work as subsistence farmers, paid or unpaid workers on family farms or as entrepreneurs running on- or off-farm enterprises. In addition, women provide the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work in rural areas, thereby supporting current and future generations of rural workers within their households and communities.

Despite their significant contribution to the agriculture sector, rural women typically find themselves in disadvantaged positions. Compared to their male counterparts, they tend to face more restricted access to productive resources and assets, financial services and social protection. Gender-biased social norms, laws and practices also limit women's involvement in gainful work and their participation in workers' and producers' organizations, especially in organized labour institutions such as trade unions. Addressing this bias is a key component of sustainable development strategies. Increasing rural women's access to decent employment opportunities is key to improving their productivity and earning power, which in turn raises family incomes and food security.


Edited Fri, Dec 1, 2017 10:56 AM

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Promoting youth employment and empowerment of young women in Jordan: An assessment of active labour market policies


The ILO Taqeem "Impact Report" series disseminates research reports from Taqeem-supported employment assessment and impact evaluations. The goal is to improve the evidence base for "what works" in the effective design and implementation of integrated employment policy responses for youth and women's employment. Taqeem is a partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) as part of an IFAD-financed project titled "Strengthening gender monitoring and evaluation in rural employment in the Near East and North Africa". This report contributes to building consensus around the role of evidence-based active labour market policies (ALMPs) in promoting decent jobs for youth and empowerment of young women in Jordan. It identifies key barriers faced by young people in Jordan in their efforts to enter the labour market. Subsequently, it compares the current landscape of ALMPs for young people with global good practice and those barriers which are specific to Jordan. The report concludes with recommendations for policy-makers and programme implementers, aimed at making ALMPs in Jordan more effective at reducing youth unemployment and mismatches between jobs and skills. The goal is to enable young people to work in higher quality jobs with better working conditions, including increasing access to social protection and opportunities to participate in social dialogue.

Comparing the current landscape of ALMPs in Jordan with global evidence and the local challenges facing young people on the labour market yields five main recommendations for policy-makers and practitioners:

I. Prioritize investments in decent jobs for young people
II. Improve the labour market opportunities of young women, especially those in rural areas
III. Design ALMPs with an eye to global good practice and adapt them to local challenges
IV. Improve the labour market access of refugees while safeguarding working conditions
V. Promote evidence-based programming of ALMPs through a culture of monitoring, evaluation and learning


What Do Women's Jobs Really Tell Us About Women's Empowerment?

DECEMBER 05, 2017

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts summarizing the discussions from a May 2017 researcher gathering on measuring women's empowerment in impact evaluations. Read the previous posts on household decision-making powerencouraging mixed methods, and using mixed methods to inform policy.

By Lucia Diaz-MartinRachel Glennerster, and Ariella Park

2013_Kenya_Project_Tugela Rid_Angaza-019.jpg

Women continue to participate in the labor market - or as non-economists would put it, "work" - at different rates than men. According to International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates in 2016, 49.5 percent of working-age women worldwide were in the workforce, compared to 76 percent of working-age men.

Measuring these inequalities and differences is difficult. For example, data on informal labor or care work is scarce-and interpreting what employment data indicates about welfare and empowerment can be even more complex. At a recent IPA and J-PAL roundtable on measuring women's empowerment, researchers discussed some of these complexities and potential ways forward.

Even responses to simple survey questions about women's work can be different depending on whom you ask. During the roundtable, one researcher noted a study in India that found that men and women gave different answers when asked the same question about whether the woman in the household was working. The women were much more likely than men to say that work was their primary activity.

Beyond data collection challenges, it is hard to know how working may affect or reflect women's empowerment in different contexts. The UN Gender Inequality Index, which measures gender inequality across countries, interprets higher rates of female labor force participation as an improvement in women's economic status. Yet, there are a range of reasons for why women might be working, and a job may be more or less empowering for a woman depending on her working conditions.

Incorporating labor force participation measures into an empowerment index means taking a stance on whether work in this context is empowering. This assumption may require some probing. For example, in surveys, researchers could ask working women about how and why they entered their current job. This could help illuminate the constraints a woman faced in making the decision to enter the workforce.

Another approach is to measure job quality. Standardized questions for measuring job quality exist, such as the OECD's job quality index, but need to be tailored for use in specific contexts. For instance, the ILO's categorization of "vulnerable employment"-those who are self-employed without formal employees-may not work in some developing countries, where women with heavy domestic care burdens might benefit from the flexibility of such self-employment.

Some rigorous research on job quality is already in works: researchers Samuel Bazzi, Lisa Cameron, Simone Schaner, and Firman Witoelar are evaluating the welfare impacts of providing advance information to female migrant workers about the quality of migration agencies' job placements in Indonesia.

One innovative way to supplement survey questions about job quality may be to collect biometric data, such as cortisol levels to measure stress. Research over past decades has shown that experiencing lack of control or autonomy in the work place is a primary source of stress. Thus, measuring stress could capture a woman's feeling of agency over her labor market choices.

This type of data collection may require more resources to implement, but has the potential to generate less subjective data. In an IPA study in Bangladesh, researchers are taking a similar approach, measuring salivary cortisol levels to evaluate the impact of a cognitive behavioral therapy intervention on stress levels among female garment factory workers.

Here again, though, context matters. We could imagine that a high-powered corporate executive has high stress levels. Yet we would not necessarily consider her disempowered for it, particularly if we believe that she chose a high-stress job for its other benefits.

Ultimately, it is hard to know what employment decisions indicate about women's empowerment because measuring these decisions often involves measuring and interpreting preferences.

Ultimately, it is hard to know what employment decisions indicate about women's empowerment because measuring these decisions often involves measuring and interpreting preferences. Classical economics assumes that an individual's decisions and actions reflect her preferences and what she considers best for herself. We typically take these preferences as given. But, as many researchers noted during the IPA and J-PAL roundtable, women's preferences are often constrained by cultural or contextual factors-and some interventions even cause preferences to change. How can we interpret these changes in terms of welfare?

One option may be to focus, instead, on how women's labor force participation affects objective outcomes related to women's empowerment, such as health or education outcomes.

In 2003, Robert Jensen (University of Pennsylvania) evaluated the impact of increasing awareness about job opportunities in call centers in India through annual information sessions. The sessions increased young women's employment rates and changed their career aspirations; these women expressed a greater desire to seek employment throughout their lives, even after marriage and childbirth. Importantly, school enrollment and body mass index for younger girls also increased, suggesting that parents were more likely to invest in the welfare of their girl children after learning about greater employment opportunities for women. These outcomes together suggest that greater job opportunities can improve women's welfare in this context.  

These approaches are not exhaustive, nor do they provide a complete answer to the question of how female labor force participation relates to women's empowerment. More research is needed on how to better untangle this complex relationship. 

Have something to contribute? Let us know! If you're aware of any interesting work being done in this area, including survey validation exercises (either completed or in process), please send an email to Lucia Diaz-Martin.




InfoStory - The gender gap in employment: What's holding women back?


Around the world, finding a job is much tougher for women than it is for men. When women are employed, they tend to work in low-quality jobs in vulnerable conditions, and there is little improvement forecast in the near future. Read more



Commission on the Status of Women
62 (2018)

The sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 12 to 23 March 2018.

Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world are welcome to attend the session.


  • Priority theme:
    Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls;
  • Review theme:
    Participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women (agreed conclusions of the forty-seventh session);


The Bureau of the Commission plays a crucial role in facilitating the preparation for, and in ensuring the successful outcome of the annual sessions of the Commission. Bureau members serve for two years. In 2002, in order to improve its work and ensure continuity, the Commission decided to hold the first meeting of its subsequent session, immediately following the closure of the regular session, for the sole purpose of electing the new Chairperson and other members of the Bureau (ECOSOC decision 2002/234).

The Bureau for the 62nd session (2018) of the Commission on the Status of Women comprises the following members:

  • H.E. Ms. Geraldine Byrne Nason (Ireland), Chair-designate (Western European and other States Group)
  • Ms. Koki Muli Grignon (Kenya), Vice-Chair (African States Group)
  • Mr. Mauricio Carabali Baquero (Colombia), Vice-Chair (Latin American and Caribbean States Group)
  • Ms. Rena Tasuja (Estonia), Vice-Chair-designate (Eastern European States Group)
  • Mr. Shah Asif Rahman (Bangladesh), Vice-Chair-designate (Asia-Pacific States Group)



Organization of the session

The Commission's two-week session will include the following activities:


Official Documents


CSW62 draft agreed conclusions


NGO Participation


Side events



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