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Economic autonomy of women

Modified on 2013/05/23 10:59 by Haoyi Chen Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Poverty
From gender issues to gender statistics on economic autonomy of women: illustrative examples

Policy-relevant questions Data needed Sources of data
Do women earn cash income as often and as much as men? Employment by type of income and sex.




Value of individual income by sex
Household surveys such as living standard surveys, LFS (Labour Force Survey), DHS (Demographic and Health Survey) or MICS (Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey)

Living standard surveys such as LSMS (Living Standard Measurement Study) or EU-SILC (European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions)
Do women own land as often and as much as men? Do women appear as often as men on housing property titles? Individual ownership of land by sex

Distribution of land size by sex of the owner

Distribution of housing property titles by sex of the owner
Household surveys such as living standard surveys; population and housing censuses; agricultural censuses or surveys

Multi-purpose household surveys; administrative sources
Do women apply for and obtain credit as often as men? Are some types of credit and some sources of credit more often associated with women than men? Applicants for credit by sex, purpose of credit, source of credit and approval response. Household surveys

  • + Gender issues
    • Compared to men, women’s income tends to be smaller, less steady and more often paid in-kind. More women than men work in vulnerable employment with low or no cash returns, and they spend more of their time on unpaid domestic tasks (United Nations, 2010). This gender division of labour increases women’s economic dependency on men. When men with higher earnings or a pension are not around any more because of divorce, migration or death, women as lone mothers and older women living alone have a higher risk of poverty (United Nations, 2010). The employment of women in non-standard or atypical work decreases their chances of benefits associated with maternity or unemployment and results in fewer assets in formal pension systems (United Nations, 2009b; World Bank, 2011). Even in countries where women are covered as often as men by the pension system, the amount accumulated in pensions is much lower for women than for men, mainly because of the lower contribution to the social security system (United Nations, 2009b).

      In many countries women have less access than men to ownership of land, housing, livestock or other property. Elements of gender inequality with regard to inheritance rights, rights to acquire and own land, and rights to own property other than land have been identified in many countries (United Nations, 2009b; United Nations, 2010; UNECE and World Bank Institute, 2010; World Bank, 2011). In those countries, women are disadvantaged in their access to ownership of economic assets in various stages of life cycle. For instance, not all women are able to obtain their share of inheritance; at marriage, their rights or control over the property may be transferred to the husband; and some women lose the control of the household property when they become widows. Even if there are no formal restrictions, women may not be able to obtain property that is rightfully theirs because of lack of knowledge of their entitlements, or lack of information and means on obtaining the property.

      Women’s chances to obtain formal credit are smaller than men’s. On one side, women more often than men lack income and property ownership to be used as collateral; on the other side, women may have more difficulty than men in obtaining loans for developing their business, because women’s business may be more often in informal and low-growth sectors (United Nations, 2009b; UNECE and World Bank Institute, 2010; World Bank, 2011). The type of credit accessed and the source of credit also tend to vary between women and men. Women may be as successful as men in accessing microcredit that would help them escape temporarily from poverty, but not as successful in accessing the credit necessary to start a business that would provide a long-term removal from poverty (United Nations, 2009b; UNECE and World Bank Institute, 2010; World Bank, 2011).

  • + Data needed
    • Individual access to cash income by sex and regularity of source of income

      Monetary value of individual income by sex

      Individual ownership of housing property by sex

      Individual ownership of land by sex

      Distribution of land size by sex of the owner

      Individual ownership of livestock by sex and type of livestock

      Distribution of livestock size by type of livestock and sex of the owner

      When data on asset ownership are collected through household surveys, information may also be obtained on how the assets were acquired, what is their value, and whether female and male household members have decision-making power on their use and disposal (UNECE and World Bank Institute, 2010). Contextual information on property and inheritance rights that may discriminate against women should be gathered from non-statistical sources, such as qualitative studies of laws or cultural norms that may have a gender-differentiated impact on access to property.

      Individual use of credit by sex, purpose of credit and source of credit.
      Individual use of credit should be further disaggregated by individual ownership of key assets such as land, housing and major durable goods, in order to see, for example, whether the lack of housing, land or other assets leads women to use informal or semiformal sources of credit.



  • + Sources of data
    • Living standard surveys, such as Living Standard Measurement Study (LSMS) usually include questions on access to various types of economic resources: access to income, access to land and other property, and access to credit. In countries from less developed regions, household surveys may not include detailed data on individual income, but may be the only source of data on use of credit from all types of sources of credit. In the more developed regions, surveys such as EU-SILC (European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions) usually collect data on income at individual level.

      Living Standard Measurement Study – Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) may collect data at individual level on asset ownership and access to various types of economic resources, including agricultural resources. Information on control over household resources is collected at the disaggregated level of agricultural subholdings (such as plots of lands and types of livestock) and subholders (the main decision-maker or manager for a particular subholding).

      Demographic and health household surveys such as DHS provide data on access to cash income.

      Population and housing censuses may collect data on property ownership, although, most of the time the data are collected at household level, without taking into account a joint ownership.

      Agricultural censuses and surveys may collect data on land and livestock ownership and on “agricultural holder” (basically defined as a decision-maker or manager), although most often at household or agricultural holding level, without taking into account joint ownership or decision-making. Agricultural surveys are a potential source for collecting individual data on use of agricultural credit.


  • + Conceptual and measurement issues
    • In less developed regions, individual income and its share in the total household income are difficult to measure and they may be more severely underrepresented for women. In these regions, a substantial part of income comes from household agricultural production, nonfarm self-employment income, or as commodities obtained from natural resources. Not only it is difficult to measure the exact income generated through these activities, but also to calculate separate income for women and men when the work is done together. Some of the activities that do not generate cash income, more often done by women than by men, are more likely to be excluded from the calculation of income. For example, women are often involved in producing food for own consumption. If this work is not taken into account, women’s income and their contribution to the household income is underreported. By comparison, cash income from paid employment, more often obtained by men than by women, is easier to measure and therefore more likely to be taken into account.

      The status of women and men in ownership and their roles in decision-making over land may be misrepresented when data are collected at the level of total area managed by the household. In some countries, distinct areas of land are owned or managed separately by the wife and the husband. In those cases, data on ownership and control over land should be collected at the level of individual plots of land by their ownership and persons involved in decision-making (Fuwa and others, 2000). It is also important to identify the owner of the assets separately from the decision-maker or manager of the business.

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