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Globalization encompasses the dynamic processes of international trade and finance that interconnect and increasingly integrate national economies. These global processes have an impact on local labour markets – on employment structures and relationships, wages and working conditions, opportunities for women and men and their labour force participation. Globalization has given countries access to a bigger workforce across the world. Looking at the gender dimensions of globalization is essential for promoting a “fair globalization”, one that, according to the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, creates opportunities for all, does not exacerbate existing problems of inequality within and between nations, and enables men and women to meet their aspirations for democratic participation and material prosperity. The most obvious reason for addressing gender issues is that women workers make up the overwhelming majority of the workforces of labour-intensive, export industries in developing countries, dominate the international migration of care services workers, and tend to be concentrated in the most vulnerable jobs of global production systems.

Any assessment of the benefits and costs of globalization would thus be insufficient if it does not differentiate the outcomes for female and male workers.

A second, perhaps less obvious, reason is that failure to take into account gender- based differences in economic behaviour and labour market outcomes could lead to the formulation of ineffective and inefficient strategies. Women and men are differently, often unequally, positioned in the economy, perform different socially determined responsibilities, and face different constraints; thus, they are unlikely to respond in the same way to policies and market signals.

Third, gender equality with respect to opportunity and treatment in the global economy is essential for achieving equity and social justice, which are integral to achieving decent work for all.

A critical consideration for understanding gender dimensions is the interdependence between the market, “paid” economy (the recognized focus of economic policy and corporate actors) and the non-market, “unpaid” care economy (the private sphere). Unpaid caring services, which are provided directly to household members as well as the wider community, are vital to individual socialization and the reproduction and maintenance of human capabilities upon which economic life depends. It is women’s time that is mainly stretched between work in the unpaid care economy and paid economy. State-provided services (e.g. health care, childcare, education, water supply) and any service that can be bought privately in the market assist or alleviate unpaid care work. Measures that favour the market paid economy at the expense of the unpaid care economy will have gender-differentiated effects, with women bearing the heavier burden.  


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