Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fridays Academy: Gender and Macroeconomics

Gender Databases

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Gender Statistics Database was released in May 2003 with the aim of monitoring gender in all UNECE member countries and evaluating the effectiveness of policies. The database is a principal component of the gender statistics website developed and maintained by UNECE in association with the national statistics offices. The website was initiated in October 2000 to strengthen national statistical capacity in the production, quality and use of gender statistics in countries, in particular the transition countries. A number of international bodies are active in the CIS, SEE region collecting, producing, disseminating and monitoring gender statistics – the UNECE, UNDP, World Bank, FAO, UNFPA, US Census Bureau/USAID.

The Gender Statistics Database of the UNECE presents sex-disaggregated social data. The data covers the common gender indicators – population, families and households, work and the economy, education, public life and decision making, health, crime and violence – as well as the data series that are used to calculate these indicators. Fifty two countries contribute data through the gender statistics focal points from national statistics offices, for 1980, 1990, 1995 and annually from 2000 to 2006.

In 2006 the OECD launched its Gender, Institutions and Development Data Base (GID). The GID expands the work of the other databases discussed by including information on social institutions that help determine the status of women. It was felt that there was a large gap in failing to measure the impact of institutions on gender. According to the OECD, “construction of the GID data base follows a clear conceptual framework that differentiates between outcome and input variables: the former measure the extent to which women suffer discrimination (e.g. women’s participation in the labour force) and the latter encompass underlying reasons for this discrimination” (OECD, WP No. 247; p. 9). The figure below outlines the framework for the construction of the GID. As noted in the explanatory report, the focus of the GID is on the solid circuit, which describes four channels through which social institutions influence the economic role of women.

Indicators Affecting the Economic Role of Women

Source: OECD, 2006

According to the diagram, social institutions directly affect women’s economic roles (the link from A to D above); social institutions can also have an indirect effect on how fully women participate in the economy. The exhibit identifies two such channels – the link from A to B to D and the link from A to C to D. An example in the case of the former link may occur when a women’s greater physical integrity leads to improved health and consequently their chances in the labor market. In the case of the latter link, social institutions can affect a country’s economic development that in turn can have positive spin-offs for women’s labor force participation. Finally the diagram notes that social institutions can also affect women’s role more indirectly via economic development by improving access to resources – health and education – that in turn improves economic development (the link between A to B to C to D; or A to C to B to D) (OECD, WP; p. 10)

Data for access to resources, economic development and the economic role of women are from the usual sources – WB, ILO, WHO. The GDI and GEM are also used. Data on social institutions is not readily available but is derived from many sources. It includes both quantitative and qualitative variables from inter alia Amnesty International, BRIDGE (a research and information service of the Institute for Development studies, specialized in gender and development), WIDNET (the Women in Development Network), AFROL (a news agency that concentrates on Africa) and a study commissioned by the French Parliament (Lang, 1998). Gender profiles from various donor agencies (e.g. the Canadian International Development Agency) were also drawn upon to complete the data base. The conceptual framework described by the figure above requires an outcome variable that measures women’s participation in the economy. The outcome variable used is women’s paid labor, based on the assumption that “women in a country are “better-off” the higher the rate of female participation in paid work” (OECD, 2006; p. 11).

Regional Indices of Discrimination against Women

Source: Figure 2, OECD, 2006. p. 20.

There are 162 countries in the GID database although the number for which social institutions data exist is lower, give data difficulties. The GID focuses on gender-related differences; hence most of the variables are measured in terms of ratios. This exhibit shows the regional indices of discrimination against women for the various measures of social institutions identified in the figure above.

The second step is to understand how an economy works. That understanding requires some knowledge of macroeconomics, the branch of economics that studies the economy as a whole with reference to key variables—among them the economy’s output, inflation, unemployment, the balance of payments, and the exchange rate. Macroeconomics attempts to explain changes in these variables and to guide policy makers in their pursuit of economic objectives, such as economic growth and smooth business cycles, the central concerns of macroeconomics. The system of national accounts provides a useful framework in which macroeconomic data can be compiled and used for economic analysis.

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