Women and trade
As an important component of economic life, trade both contributes to, and is impacted by inequality. Trade affects women differently than men. Trade also affects different women in different ways. This means that we must be aware of the differences. At worst, trade policy can increase or perpetuate inequalities – leaving women even worse off. But it is more often the case that trade policies and changes maintain the status quo in terms of inequality. This still leaves women worse off as men can access and take advantage of the benefits of trade changes, while women are less able to. At best, trade provides opportunities for women, and contributes to structural change to promote equality.
Gender inequality also impacts trade competitiveness. This makes sense, because when women participate fully in the economy, the economy will do better. Trade can create a virtuous circle – if we design trade policies and agreements to uplift women, we can achieve more equality, which will in turn improve trade.
When considering making gender sensitive trade policy (including trade agreements) it is essential that we take into account the many roles women play in the economy. It is important to consider how women and men participate in the economy in their capacity as employees, producers, consumers, unpaid workers, traders and as tax payers. It is important to understand how trade changes affect women in each of these roles. Trade policy can play an important role in narrowing the gender gap. Or, it can contribute to widening the gap.