Gender and vulnerable employment in the developing world: Evidence from global microdata

Maria Lo Bue, Tu Thi Ngoc Le, Manuel Santos Silva, Kunal Sen

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This paper investigates gender inequality in vulnerable employment: forms of employment typically featuring high precariousness, inadequate earnings, and lack of decent working conditions. Using a large collection of harmonized household surveys from developing countries, we measure long-term trends, describe geographical patterns, and estimate correlates of gender inequalities in vulnerable employment. Conditional on individual and household characteristics, women are 7 percentage points more likely to be in vulnerable employment than men. The experiences of marriage and parenthood are important drivers of this gender gap. Across countries, the gender gap is smaller in richer countries, with lower fertility rates, and more gender-egalitarian laws, particularly those laws regulating marriage, parenthood, access to assets, and access to entrepreneurship. Since the 1990s, rising levels of female education and rapidly falling fertility have pulled women away from vulnerable employment at a faster rate than men. However, that process is largely exhausted, with current levels of the gender gap in vulnerable employment being almost entirely unexplained by standard labour supply factors.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWorld Development
Early online date2 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022


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