Women and trade

Trade can be a driving force for women's economic empowerment

Since its establishment over 20 years ago, the WTO has striven to put trade at the centre of development and aid strategies. As a result, trade has helped to lift millions of people out of poverty. However, the WTO recognizes that more needs to be done to allow trade to become an engine of wealth creation and poverty reduction for women.

Trade has clearly created opportunities for women's employment and economic development. The World Trade Report 2017 shows that trade has supported employment opportunities for women in many countries.

The Report suggests that "trade expansion and increasing specialization in the textile sector have opened up job opportunities for women ... Given that time and mobility constraints are greater for women, particularly those with children, technological developments like e-commerce can have an important impact on work for women. Because trade creates job opportunities for skilled workers, it increases the incentive to undertake schooling. This is particularly beneficial for women who have traditionally received less education than men, as is particularly the case currently in many developing countries. Yet, there is evidence that women face higher constraints than men when it comes to accessing foreign markets".

Sectors involved in trading are large sources of employment for women, with exporting companies in developing countries employing more women than is the case for non-exporters. Women play an active role in services, agriculture and manufacturing as cross-border traders, producers and entrepreneurs. Globally, in 2015, 62 per cent of employed women worked in the services sector, 25 per cent in agriculture and 13 per cent in industry, according to the ILO (Women at Work Trends, 2016).

E-commerce conducted through online platforms can be an easy and inexpensive way for women to trade globally, to enter new foreign markets, to expand their businesses and to harness their entrepreneurship.

Better data is needed to track the impact of trade on women. Gathering such data could lead to better understanding of the link between trade and gender and would help governments realize the concrete economic benefits resulting from empowering women and adjusting their policies.

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