In this Bretton Woods Project brief Elaine Zuckerman assesses the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Staff Discussion Note, “Women, Work, and the Economy: Macroeconomic Gains from Gender Equity” (WWE). This best IMF gender-focused report to date shows that the IMF has a long way to go to realize gender justice. WWE promotes an ‘instrumentalist’ strategy that upholds women’s employment as an instrument to boost economic growth. It needs to complementarily promote women’s and men’s equal rights -- a key women’s movement demand to end patriarchal patterns and feminization of poverty propelled by IMF structural adjustment loans. Maria Karamessinini’s box demonstrates how Greece’s IMF austerity program negatively impacts women. See the IMF & Gender’s recommendations!
Gender Action continuously monitors the gender impacts of
IFI policy-based loans and carries out advocacy with local
partners to mitigate their harmful effects on poor men and
women in the global South. We work actively to eliminate poor
countries’ illegitimate IFI debt and onerous reform
conditions attached to IFI debt relief. Gender Action collaborates
in coalitions promoting alternative responsible finance, for
low-income countries, without strings attached to IFI-conditioned
Barricades to Gender Equity in the International Financial Architecture
Bhumika Muchhala, Third World Network
"Barricades to Gender Equity in the International Financial Architecture" by Bhumika Muchhala of the Third World Network examines the link between macroeconomic policies and rising gender inequality in the most recent economic recession. The article highlights how application of IMF macroeconomic policies on low-income countries, including trade liberalization, privatization, and cuts to social spending, has disproportionately harmed women. For example, women's concentration in part-time, public sector, or temporary employment means that they are often the first to be laid off during economic recessions. Additionally, when social services are cut, women often work longer hours both inside and outside the home to buffer their families against lost resources. Increased burdens on unpaid care work, restrictions to public spending, and emphasis on private sector development exacerbate gender inequality.
"Barricades to Gender Equity" outlines three damaging gender biases that are intensified by traditional macroeconomic policies. They are deflationary bias, male breadwinner bias and privatization bias. Combined, these harmful biases undermine women's employment opportunities and restrict their access to quality education, health care, and other essential services. The article recommends incorporating unpaid care work into economic measurements; placing gender equality, human development, and social justice at the heart of economic development; and adopting more diverse economic policies that make social spending and debt restructuring complementary to growth. As Machhala argues, we must move toward new financial policies that advance, not hinder, gender equity and women's rights.