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Economic Glossary - Introduction

Prepared by BRIDGE in collaboration with GTZ - German Technical Cooperation by
Patricia Alexander with Sally Baden
© Institute of Development Studies and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH
This glossary provides a concise introduction to the key concepts relevant to macroeconomics and its applications, highlighting the gender dimensions of current economic thinking. It also indicates aspects of policy formation and evaluation where these dimensions are increasingly taken into account.
The glossary has been prepared primarily to assist economists and policy makers, particularly those working in international development, who are concerned with how gender plays a role in economic processes, and with how dimensions of gender relations are becoming incorporated into economic theory. Specifically, it is addressed to those working in planning machineries, Ministries of Finance and in development co-operation policy advice. It will also be of value for gender specialists working with economists and planners.
Between 1993 and 1998, the Working Party on Gender Equality of the OECD-DAC, in collaboration with the University of Manchester and other institutions, developed concepts, frameworks and tools for integrating gender into macroeconomic policy, through its Task-force on Gender and Macroeconomics. The main outputs of this work are compiled in a volume called Gender and Economic Reform in Development Cooperation, which is due to be published in 2000 and are also drawn on here. The present glossary was conceived in the context of this broader project and is a joint effort between the GTZ-German Technical Cooperation and BRIDGE (briefings on development and gender) at the Institute of Development Studies (UK). It was commissioned by the Unit for Strategic Corporate Development and the Pilot Programme Gender of GTZ.
The emphasis here on policy implications reflects the impact that conceptual and empirical work on gender and macroeconomics has begun to have in policy making and planning, as well as GTZ's commitment to more applied work in this field. For example, national statistical systems are now attempting to incorporate measurement of women's unpaid labour in satellite national accounts (see entries on national accounts, time budgets, statistics); processes are underway to make national budgets more responsive to women's needs (see budgets, public finance) and attempts have been made to integrate gender concerns into the design of structural adjustment programmes (see structural adjustment).
It is hoped this glossary provides a stimulating tool in the ongoing dialogue between macroeconomists and gender specialists in efforts to make policy more responsive to human development needs.
Gender in economic analysis: an overview
Although economists have treated issues of male and female participation in the labour force since the early 1900s, gender was not itself used as a category of analysis. (The term "gender" is used when social categories are denoted; that is, it expresses the sense that, beyond the elementary functions of human reproduction, male and female roles are not biological categories, like sex, but are social constructs.) The early treatments of female labour force participation, male/female wage differentials and wage discrimination (e.g. by Pigou, Hicks, Harrod and Becker), rested on the dynamics of the market operating on men and women, rather than on the role played by gender in the way that markets function fundamentally. (Madden cited in Benería 1995, p. 1840).
In the 1960s Becker and other human capital theorists developed the 'New Household Economics,' which for the first time applied market concepts and models to household production and time allocation analysis. These new tools were used to explain the sexual division of labour, market behaviour of household members, and male-female differences within these (Benería Op. cit.). In the 1970s and 1980s, these concepts were applied to further analysis of labour market discrimination and to bargaining models of the household which allowed for dimensions of power and conflict in decision making. Meanwhile, the 1960s debate on the remuneration of domestic labour and the United Nations conferences during the Decade for Women (1976-1985) popularised the concept of social reproduction. All of these factors contributed to recognition of the pivotal role of women's work in the "reproductive sector".
Concurrent with developments in microeconomics, the work of Ester Boserup (1970), an economic anthropologist, posed a macro-level question: "what is it about the economic development process that differentially incorporates and impacts upon men and women?" (Katz p. 391). The Third World debt crises of the 1970s and 1980s and a series of structural adjustment programmes fostered several rounds of impact assessment, which led to the identification of women as one of the groups vulnerable to welfare losses during the disruptive phases of such programmes. (Cornia et al.). Hypotheses that the source of welfare losses might lie in the design of the programmes, and not merely in their unexpected side effects, provoked attempts to incorporate gender more rigorously into macroeconomic analysis.
This work addressed such issues as inequalities in the allocation of consumption and resources within the household, the asymmetries of incentive structures at the micro level between men and women, and gender disparities in dependence on public services. Paul Collier, in several papers prepared for the World Bank (Collier 1988; 1990; 1993; 1994), proposed disaggregation by gender of income and expenditure data for use in assessing the progress of structural adjustment and Demery (1996) developed a methodology for analysing the gender-disaggregated benefit incidence of public expenditure.
Central to this new work was a questioning of the implicit assumption of a high elasticity of women's labour in response to economic shocks or adjustment signals. This led several authors to highlight the inherent 'gender bias' in apparently neutral stabilisation and adjustment models (Cagatay et al; Elson 1991, 1995; Palmer 1991, 1994). The seminal treatment of the unwitting gender bias that follows from the assumed neutrality of traditional macroeconomics is Elson (1991), "Male bias in macroeconomics: the case of structural adjustment", in a collection edited by the same author, entitled Male Bias in the Development Process (Second Edition, 1995).
Alongside the gender and adjustment debates, since the late 1980s several authors have examined the reliance on female labour in the growth of world manufacturing, trade and globalisation (Joekes 1987, 1995; Standing 1989, 1999; Wood) highlighting the relationships between export production, feminisation of the labour force and changing labour onditions. World Development (27:3), 1999, presents a special section on women, labour and globalisation which summarises current research in this area.
The acceleration of globalisation in the 1990s also stimulated an exploration of modeling techniques to capture the structural dynamics of gender relations and their effect on growth and policy outcomes. William Darity (1995) ormalised a model of a gender-segregated, low-income agrarian society, with an export and a subsistence sector, which, along with others, was presented in a special issue of World Development (23:11) illustrating developments in analysing the interaction of gender and macro policy. This special issue serves as a good introduction to the major topics referred to in the glossary, and includes several of the most important authors in the field. Modelling efforts are assisted by the increasing availability and improving quality of gender-disaggregated data, though much remains to be done in this area (see statistics). The UN's Wistat database (1994), which will be issued in an updated version in 2000, provides the most comprehensive source of such data with international coverage.
Further treatment of these issues is included in a volume published in 1998 by the Colombian National Planning epartment and GTZ on Macroeconomics, Gender and the State ². This book presents both theoretical issues and also ractical tools and applications for integrating gender considerations in macroeconomic policy, into processes of state reform and institutional development.
Theoretical and empirical developments in the field of gender, economics and development are covered in a range of journals, particularly World Development, which is widely cited here. Other journals that publish relevant research are Development and Change, the IDS Bulletin, the Journal of Development Economics, and the Journal of International Development, as well as the Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics and the Cambridge Journal of Economics. Since 1995, a specialist journal on Feminist Economics, has been published which contains many pieces of relevance to developing, as well as developed, economies; and a recent reference work, theEdward Elgar Companion to Feminist Economics, provides a comprehensive overview of the field.
The entries
The entries, arranged in alphabetical order, consist of summaries of one or more paragraphs, up to 900 words. Many of the entries are initially based on the Routledge Dictionary of Economics (D. Rutherford) and The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics (Eatwell et al.); they are further explained, with examples where possible, to show their use by "gender-and-development" economists. The glossary draws heavily on cited references (particularly several such as Benería 1995, Elson 1995, and G. Sen 1996) which are themselves reviews or summaries of developments in feminist economics. Cross-references are shown in bold-face italics. Sources and further reading follow the entries (year is cited only where more than one work by an author appears in the references). Full references for these and for the works cited above are given at the end of the glossary, as a guide for further reading.
  • ¹ Acknowledgments: Thanks are due to Martha Gutierrez of GTZ,
      for thoughtful comments on the draft, and to Hazel Reeves,
      BRIDGE Manager, for editorial support
  • ² This book is due to be published by GTZ in English in 2000.