Labour Markets, Institutions and Inequality

Labour Markets, Institutions and Inequality

Building Just Societies in the 21st Century

Edited by Janine Berg

Labour market institutions, including collective bargaining, the regulation of employment contracts and social protection policies, are instrumental for improving the well-being of workers, their families and society. In many countries, these institutions have been eroded, whilst in other countries they do not exist at all.

Chapter 12: Labour market institutions and gender equality

Sarah Gammage

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, labour economics, social policy and sociology, labour policy


This chapter focuses on the role of labour market institutions in promoting greater gender equality and securing better outcomes for women in the labour market. It begins with a theoretical framework for analysing women’s labour market participation, which focuses on the household and the combination or reconciliation of household and employment responsibilities. The premise that underpins this chapter is that the sexual division of labour within the household weakens the position of women in the labour market and contributes to their segregation, often into precarious, low-productivity and underpaid segments of the labour market. At the same time, this weakened position in the labour market contributes to reinforcing the sexual division of labour in the household, thereby increasing women’s economic dependence upon the income of others, or upon social transfers. As a result, it is not possible to understand sex-based inequalities in the labour market without addressing unremunerated work in the household sphere. The chapter provides some salient stylized facts about women’s labour market participation in light of these observed gender differences in women’s and men’s domestic responsibilities, drawing from time use and labour force participation data across different regions and levels of development. Subsequently, it explores some key labour market institutions (LMIs) that have had the greatest impact on promoting gender equality, both in the labour market and in terms of the gender division of labour within the household.

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