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The Impact of Social Institutions on the Economic Role of Women in Developing Countries


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  • Christian Morrisson
  • Johannes P. Jütting


Donor agencies and policy makers tend to agree that increased access of women to education, health, credit, formal legal rights and employment opportunities, in conjunction with economic growth, will substantially improve the socio-economic role of women in developing countries. This paper challenges that view. It argues that these measures might not be sufficient if the institutional framework within a country constrains women from participating in economic activities. It finds that social institutions — laws, norms, traditions and codes of conduct — constitute the most important single factor determining women’s freedom of choice in economic activities. They have not only a direct impact on the economic role of women but also an indirect one through women’s access to resources like education and health care. The findings suggest that an institutional framework that disadvantages half of the adult population hinders development. To address gender inequalities effectively, policy ... Les agences d’aide et les responsables politiques s’accordent en général sur l’idée suivante: un accès accru des femmes à l’éducation, à la santé, au crédit, aux droits reconnus par la loi et aux possibilités d’emploi, en conjonction avec la croissance économique, améliorera significativement le rôle des femmes dans la société et l’économie des pays en développement. Ce document conteste cette idée pour la raison suivante : ces mesures risquent de ne pas suffire aussi longtemps que le cadre institutionnel limite dans un pays la participation des femmes aux activités économiques. Il montre que les institutions sociales, c’est-à-dire les lois, les normes, les traditions et les codes de comportement dans une société représentent le facteur le plus important qui détermine la liberté de choix des femmes en matière d’activité économique. Les institutions sociales n’ont pas seulement un impact direct sur le rôle économique des femmes, mais elles ont aussi un impact indirect à cause de ...

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Development Centre Working Papers with number 234.

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Date of creation: May 2004
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Handle: RePEc:oec:devaaa:234-en

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Cited by:
  1. Seguino, Stephanie, 2006. "The Road to Gender Equality: Global Trends and the Way Forward," MPRA Paper 6510, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Morrisson, Christian & Jutting, Johannes P., 2005. "Women's discrimination in developing countries: A new data set for better policies," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(7), pages 1065-1081, July.
  3. Caroline Harper & Nicola Jones & Carol Watson, 2010. "Stemming Girls’ Chronic Poverty: Catalysing Development Change by Building Just Social Institutions," Working Papers id:3020, eSocialSciences.
  4. Martina Viarengo, 2007. "An historical analysis of the expansion of compulsory schooling in Europe after the Second World War," Economic History Working Papers 4286, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.


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