(UN Conference on Trade and Development)
The prevailing thought for decades has been that free trade would bring equal opportunity to all. But with women still accounting for 70% of those living in extreme poverty, that stance has come under increased scrutiny.
“The assumption was that trade policy was gender neutral,” says Simonetta Zarrilli, who steers UNCTAD’s work on gender. “But research has shown that trade affects women and men differently, since they play different roles in society and in the economy.”
For example, policies aimed at increasing exports in labour-intensive sectors, such as textiles and clothing, shoes, toys and other light manufacturing, have provided employment opportunities for women but have often created new patterns of inequality, as women are assigned to the less-skilled, lower-paid jobs.
Likewise, policies promoting agro-industries have frequently crowded out small-scale farmers, who are mostly women.
“Gender-blind trade policies and agreements run the risk of magnifying inequalities,” Ms. Zarrilli says. Click here to read more.