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Sectoral allocation by gender of Latin American workers over the liberalization period of the 1990s


  • Cunningham, Wendy V.


The recent restructuring of Latin American economies has renewed interest in the effects of trade liberalization, on labor markets, and on the gender division of labor. The author does not attempt to establish casuality between economic reforms, and the types of jobs that men and women hold. Instead, she provides a detailed description of the trends in male, and female formal, and informal sector participation during the economic reform period in Argentina, Brazil, and Costa Rica. The author first compares the gender composition of the formal, informal wage, and self-employment sectors in a year before reforms (1988 for Argentina, 1989 for Brazil, and Costa Rica), and a year after reforms implementation (1997 for Argentina, 1995 for Brazil and Costa Rica). Although women continued to be more likely than men to work in the informal wage sector, there is no trend of"masculinization"or"feminization"of the informal sector, or any other. Instead, in Argentina men have overtaken women as the most prevalent workers in the informal wage sector, while in Brazil, the opposite has occurred (as men move into self-employment). In Costa Rica there have been no statistical, observable changes. The author then considers the distribution across sectors within each gender group, to identify whether men, and women are more likely to select different sectors in the post-reform period relative to the pre-reform period. Among both men, and women in all three countries (except Brazilian men), workers have become more likely to hold informal wage jobs, and less likely to hold formal sector jobs. Trends in human capital accumulation explain these changes for both men, and women, while changes in gender roles, primarily in homecare and marriage, do not seem to have an effect.

Suggested Citation

  • Cunningham, Wendy V., 2001. "Sectoral allocation by gender of Latin American workers over the liberalization period of the 1990s," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2742, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2742

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 2, number 9780226041162, January.
    2. Gustavo Franco, 1996. "The Real Plan," Textos para discussão 354, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil).
    3. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1974. "Alternative Theories of Wage Determination and Unemployment in LDC's: The Labor Turnover Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 88(2), pages 194-227.
    4. Edward Amadeo & Valéria Pero, 1996. "Adjustment , stabilization and the structure of employment in Brazil," Textos para discussão 353, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil).
    5. Thomas, Jonathan M, 1996. "An Empirical Model of Sectoral Movements by Unemployed Workers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(1), pages 126-153, January.
    6. Arias, Omar, 2001. "Are men benefiting from the new economy : male economic marginalization in Argentina, Brazil, and Costa Rica," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2740, The World Bank.
    7. Sandra E. Black & Elizabeth Brainerd, 1999. "Importing equality? The effects of increased competition on the gender wage gap," Staff Reports 74, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    8. Maloney, William F, 1999. "Does Informality Imply Segmentation in Urban Labor Markets? Evidence from Sectoral Transitions in Mexico," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 13(2), pages 275-302, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Arias, Omar & Blom, Andreas & Bosch, Mariano & Cunningham, Wendy & Fiszbein, Ariel & Lopez Acevedo, Gladys & Maloney, William & Saavedra, Jaime & Sanchez-Paramo, Carolina & Santamaria, Mauricio & Siga, 2005. "Pending issues in protection, productivity growth, and poverty reduction," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3799, The World Bank.
    2. Nordås, Hildegunn Kyvik, 2004. "Is trade liberalization a window of opportunity for women?," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2003-03, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.


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