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Resource: Women's Wage Employment in Developing Countries: Regulatory Barriers and Opportunities

Leadership in Public Financial Managment II 

This publication was produced by Nathan Associates Inc. for review by the United States Agency for International Development. 

Executive Summary

Women face layers of regulatory, social, and cultural inequalities in accessing employment opportunities globally. If confronted by employment barriers, women are more likely to live in poverty, have less decision-making power in the home, and are less likely to engage in leadership roles in civil society. Regulations and policies restricting women’s labor force participation also have significant macroeconomic implications. McKinsey & Company (2015) estimates that if women’s roles in the labor market were identical to those of men, global gross domestic product would increase by 26 percent.

This report examines how laws and regulations in developing and transitional countries limit or enable women to enter, remain, and advance in the formal sector workforce. Specifically, this study analyzes how gender inequalities in civil and administrative laws, regulatory employment restrictions, occupational licenses, employment discrimination, and sexual harassment limit women’s abilities to engage in wage employment. It also analyzes how laws and policies can support working women and working parents in not only remaining but also thriving in the workplace. While the literature contains ample examples from countries that have regulations that negatively affect women’s wage employment, few evaluations exist on the effect of removing such discriminatory regulations on women’s labor force participation, with this meriting further investment and research.