It is well-established that bringing more women into the formal labor force is critical for economic development. One strategy often cited is further integrating developing countries into global trade, particularly global value chains (GVCs), to contribute to female labor market outcomes through the expansion of female-intensive industries. As a result, a big question frequently debated, is whether the apparel industry – which is the most female-intensive and globally engaged manufacturing industry – can be a key player in this regard. In recent decades, the apparel industry has shifted its production to low-wage developing countries, increasing the demand for women, closing male-female wage gaps, and bringing women into the formal labor force. Indeed, the benefits of apparel exports have reached the female population, but is an apparel-led export strategy sufficient to induce the transition from jobs to careers? A new report, “From Jobs to Careers: Apparel Exports and Career Paths for Women in Developing Countries” provides an answer by focusing on seven countries where the apparel industry plays an important role in its export basket – Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Vietnam. The Report’s key finding is that countries should take advantage of the apparel industry as a launching platform to overcome the fixed costs of introducing more women into the labor market. However, for this approach to work, there needs to be complementary policies that tackle the barriers that hinder women in their pursuit of long-term participation in the labor force and better-paid occupations. A hope is to shift the paradigm of how we think of women’s participation in the labor force by demonstrating the importance of the distinction between jobs and careers. Although aspirations towards careers are achieved in different ways, understanding how progress is being made in each country towards a more equitable life between men and women will pave the way for a better route forward.
At this seminar, Gladys Lopez-Acevedo, Lead Economist and Global Lead, Poverty and Equity Global Practice, Raymond Robertson, Professor, Bush School of Government and Public Services, Texas A&M University and Mexico A. Vergara Bahena, Consultant, Poverty and Equity Global Practice, World Bank, presented the main findings of the report.
Friday, 8am-9am, January 14, 2022 (Japan Standard Time)
Lead Economist and Global Lead, Poverty and Equity Global Practice, World Bank
Gladys Lopez-Acevedo is a Lead Economist and a Global Lead at the World Bank in the Poverty and Equity Global Practice. She works primarily in the South Asia and Middle East and North Africa Regions of the World Bank. Gladys’ areas of analytical and operational interest include trade, welfare, gender, conflict, and jobs. Previously, she was a Lead Economist in the World Bank Chief Economist’s Office for the South Asian region (SARCE), and Senior Economist in the World Bank Central Vice Presidency Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) unit and in the Latin America region at the World Bank. She is a Research Fellow of the Institute for Labor Economics (I.Z.A) and at the Mexican National Research System (S.N.I). Prior to joining the World Bank, she held high-level positions in the Government of Mexico and she was a professor at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). She holds a BA in economics from ITAM and a PhD in economics from the University of Virginia.
Professor, Bush School of Government and Public Services, Texas A&M University
Raymond Robertson is the Helen and Roy Ryu Chair in Economics and Government in the Department of International Affairs, Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University. He also serves as the director of the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy at Texas A&M University. He is a research fellow at the Institute of Labor Economics in Bonn and a senior research fellow at the Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center at Southern Methodist University. He has taught at Syracuse University and the Monterrey Institute of Technology’s Mexico City campus. Widely published in the field of labor economics and international econom- ics, he previously chaired the US Department of Labor’s National Advisory Committee for Labor Provisions of US Free Trade Agreements; he served on both the State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy and the Center for Global Development’s Advisory Board. He holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Texas at Austin.
Consultant, Poverty and Equity Global Practice, World Bank
Mexico A. Vergara Bahena is a consultant in the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Global Practice. He has been working on female labor participation and distributional effects of trade in the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia Regions. Previously, he worked as an economist in the Bank of Mexico’s International Economy Division. He holds bachelor’s degrees in economics and political science, as well as a master’s degree in applied economics from the ITAM.
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