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The Dynamics of Women’s Labour Supply in Developing Countries

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  • Sonia Bhalotra
  • Marcela Umaña-Aponte

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Abstract

This paper investigates cyclicality in women’s labour supply motivated by the hypothesis that it contributes to smoothing household consumption in environments characterised by income volatility. We use comparable individual data on about 1.1 million women in 63 developing and transition countries merged with country-level panel data on GDP during 1986-2006. The scope of these data is unprecedented in the small but growing literature on labour markets in developing countries. We find that the within-country relationship of women’s employment and income is, on average, negative in Asia and Latin America but positive in Africa. We suggest that amongst reasons why African women behave differently are that the conventional family structure with income pooling is less the norm, there are fewer opportunities for paid employment, and aggregate income shocks are more closely tied to rainfall variation. The findings are robust to controls for country-specific trends and potentially correlated shocks. In Asia and Latin America, characteristics that strengthen counter-cyclical responses include low education, being married, being married to men with low education, low wealth, no landownings, rural residence and fertility. These findings suggest that insurance motives underpin the dynamics of women’s work participation. Examination of cyclicality in the distribution of employment across types suggests that recessions in every region are associated with a rise in self-employment amongst women. In Asia and Latin America, there is a parallel rise in paid employment and a sharp drop in non-employment. In Africa, there is a decline in paid employment which overwhelms the rise in self-employment and this is how total employment comes to decline. The results have potentially important implications for understanding labour markets, fertility timing and child outcomes.

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  • Sonia Bhalotra & Marcela Umaña-Aponte, 2010. "The Dynamics of Women’s Labour Supply in Developing Countries," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 10/235, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  • Handle: RePEc:bri:cmpowp:10/235
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    Cited by:

    1. Sarkar, Sudipa & Sahoo, Soham & Klasen, Stephan, 2017. "Employment Transitions of Women in India: A Panel Analysis," IZA Discussion Papers 11086, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Francavilla, Francesca & Giannelli, Gianna Claudia & Grilli, Leonardo, 2013. "Mothers’ Employment and their Children’s Schooling: A Joint Multilevel Analysis for India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 183-195.
    3. repec:ilo:ilowps:486789 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Pieters, Janneke & Klasen, Stephan, 2011. "Drivers of female labour force participation in urban India during India's Economic Boom," Proceedings of the German Development Economics Conference, Berlin 2011 65, Verein für Socialpolitik, Research Committee Development Economics.
    5. Daniela Campus & Gianna Giannelli, 2016. "Is the Allocation of Time Gender Sensitive to Food Price Changes? An Investigation of Hours of Work in Uganda," Working Papers - Economics wp2016_16.rdf, Universita' degli Studi di Firenze, Dipartimento di Scienze per l'Economia e l'Impresa.
    6. Daniela Campus & Gianna Claudia Giannelli, 2017. "Is the allocation of time gender sensitive to food price changes? an investigation of hours of work in Uganda," CHILD Working Papers Series 53 JEL Classification: J1, Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic Economics (CHILD) - CCA.
    7. Giannakopoulos, Nicholas, 2015. "The added worker effect of married women in Greece during the Great Depression," MPRA Paper 66298, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Nidhiya Menon & Yana van der Meulen Rodgers, 2010. "War and Women’s Work: Evidence from the Conflict in Nepal," Working Papers 19, Brandeis University, Department of Economics and International Businesss School.
    9. Akresh, Richard & Bhalotra, Sonia R. & Leone, Marinella & Osili, Una O., 2017. "First and Second Generation Impacts of the Biafran War," IZA Discussion Papers 10938, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Motkuri, Venkatanarayana, 2016. "Levels of Development and Female Labour Participation Rates in Rural India," MPRA Paper 84602, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Maurizio Bovi & Massimo Mancini, 2016. "Recessions, expectations, and labor supply dynamics," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 50(2), pages 653-671, March.
    12. Lee, Grace H.Y. & Parasnis, Jaai, 2014. "Discouraged workers in developed countries and added workers in developing countries? Unemployment rate and labour force participation," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 90-98.
    13. Sabarwal, Shwetlena & Sinha, Nistha & Buvinic, Mayra, 2011. "How Do Women Weather Economic Shocks? What We Know," World Bank - Economic Premise, The World Bank, issue 46, pages 1-6, January.
    14. Chaudhary, Ruchika. & Verick, Sher., 2014. "Female labour force participation in India and beyond," ILO Working Papers 994867893402676, International Labour Organization.
    15. Priebe, Jan, 2011. "Child Costs and the Causal Effect of Fertility on Female Labor Supply: An investigation for Indonesia 1993-2008," Proceedings of the German Development Economics Conference, Berlin 2011 67, Verein für Socialpolitik, Research Committee Development Economics.
    16. Klasen, Stephan & Pieters, Janneke, 2012. "Push or Pull? Drivers of Female Labor Force Participation during India's Economic Boom," IZA Discussion Papers 6395, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Gunatilaka, Ramani., 2013. "To work or not to work? : Factors holding women back from market work in Sri Lanka," ILO Working Papers 994838403402676, International Labour Organization.
    18. repec:ilo:ilowps:483840 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Dumas, Christelle. & Houdré, Cédric., 2016. "Non-standard forms of employment in Uganda and Ghana," ILO Working Papers 994901783402676, International Labour Organization.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    insurance; women’s labour supply; added worker effect; business cycles; dynamics; Africa; Asia; Latin America.;

    JEL classification:

    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • I00 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General - - - General

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