Women are under-represented in wage and salaried employment in low- and lower-middle- income countries. For very poor women who lack the basic assets or tools needed to be self-employed, reasonably paid wage labor outside of the home is often a preferred job option. The key, however, is expanding access to decent, non-exploitative jobs that are fairly compensated.

This is easier said than done. Occupational sex segregation and gender discrimination in the labor market, evident in both developing and industrial labor markets, mean that women tend to be in lower-paid occupations, and they are often paid less than men within the same occupational category.

Summary of Lessons

Many of the programs that have been evaluated have been put in place by governments to cope with high unemployment rates in times of economic crises or transitions, called active labor market programs. The programs usually focus on job search assistance, skills training, internships with companies and wage subsidies, including job vouchers that incentivize the firm to hire a worker it otherwise might not. These programs increase employment rates for adult women, sometimes more so than for adult men, but they do not increase wage rates.

Childcare programs have been implemented specifically to increase the supply of female workers in the economy on the assumption that a lack of affordable childcare prevents women from entering the workforce. Access to childcare is proven to increase women’s wage employment and earnings; however childcare programs must be designed to ensure quality, affordability and cost effectiveness.

In Guatemala City and rural Colombia, increased availability of childcare led to positive effects on the nutrition and development of young children participating, as well as increases in female employment.

Case Studies and Best Practice Research on Empowering Women through Clean Cookstoves Projects in Bangladesh

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Financiers across the world structure debt contracts to limit the risk of entrepreneurial lending. However, certain debt structures that reduce risk may inhibit enterprise growth, especially among the poor. We use a field experiment to estimate the short- and long-run impacts of varying the term structure of the classic microfinance loan product.

How to Improve Women’s Employability and Quality of Work in Developing and Transition Economies

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We report the impacts of a job training program operated in the Dominican Republic. A random sample of applicants was selected to undergo training, and information was gathered 10-14 months after graduation. Unfortunately, people originally assigned to treat- ment who failed to show up were not included in the follow-up survey, potentially compromising the evaluation design.

Child Care and Women's Labor Force Participation in Romania

The paper models the household demand for child care and mothers' labor force participation and working hours in Romania. The model estimates the effects of the price of child care, the mother's wage, and household income on household behavior with respect to child care and mother's employment. We found that both the maternal decision to become employed and the decision to use out-of-home care are sensitive to the price of child care. A decrease in the price of care can increase the number of working mothers and thus can reduce poverty in some households.

Has Training Helped Employ Xiagang in China? A Tale from Two Cities

This study evaluates the effectiveness of training programs for workers retrenched from Chinese state-owned enterprises in the cities of Shenyang and Wuhan. A variety of impact estimators were applied, however ordinary least squares (OLS) controlling for observable characteristic s was robust. We find that training dampens reemployment prospects in Shenyang but improves them in Wuhan. Training impact estimates computed by propensity score and log odds ratio matching imposing various support condition rules, yielded estimates very similar to those from the OLS.

Assisting the Transition from Workfare to Work: A Randomized Experiment in Argentina

Randomly sampled workfare participants in a welfare-dependent region of Argentina were given a voucher that entitled an employer to a sizable wage subsidy. A second sample also received the option of skill training while a third sample formed the control group. Double-difference and instrumental- variables methods were used to deal with potential experimental biases, including selective compliance with the randomized assignment. Compared to the control group, voucher recipients had a significantly higher probability of employment, though their current incomes were no higher.

Social Protection in a Crisis: Argentina's Plan Jefes y Jefas

The authors assess the impact of Argentina's main social policy response to the severe economic crisis of 2002. The program aimed to provide direct income support for families with dependents, for whom the head had become unemployed due to the crisis. Counterfactual comparisons are based on a matched subset of applicants not yet receiving the program. Panel data spanning the crisis are also used. The authors find that the program reduced aggregate unemployment, though it attracted as many people into the workforce from inactivity, as it did people who would have been otherwise unemployed.

Evaluating Preschool Programs When Length of Exposure to the Program Varies: A Nonparametric Approach

Nonexperimental data are used to evaluate impacts of a Bolivian preschool program on cognitive, psychosocial, and anthropometric outcomes. Impacts are shown to be highly dependent on age and exposure duration. To minimize the effect of distributional assumptions, program impacts are estimated as nonparametric functions of age and duration. A generalized matching estimator is developed and used to control for nonrandom selectivity into the program and into exposure durations.

Estimating the Benefit Incidence of an Anti-Poverty Program using Propensity Score Matching

We apply recent advances in propensity-score matching (PSM) to the problem of estimating the distribution of net income gains from an Argentinean workfare program. PSM has a number of attractive features in this context, including the need to allow for heterogeneous impacts while optimally weighting observed characteristics when forming a comparison group. The average direct gain to the participant is found to be about half the gross wage. Over half of the beneficiaries are in the poorest decile nationally, and 80% are in the poorest quintile.

Public Preschool and the Labor Supply of Arab Mothers: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

Low labor force participation among mothers in North Africa and the Middle East is often attributed to cultural factors independent of economic considerations. There is little evidence, however, to support or refute this view. In September 1999, the Israeli government introduced free public preschool for children aged 3 and 4. I use this policy change to estimate the effects of a reduction in child care costs on preschool enrollment, and Arab mothers' labor supply and fertility.