Gender Dimensions of Agricultural and Rural Employment: Differentiated Pathways out of Poverty

Published: December 2009

This document presents a report on gender dimensions of agricultural and rural employment.There's no debate about the importance of women for rural economic growth and poverty reduction. They fill many crucial roles, as farmers, wage labourers and small-scale entrepreneurs, as well as caretakers of children and the elderly. Rural women have the potential to lift their households and communities out of poverty. But they are hampered by persistent gender inequities that limit their access to decent work, which they need as a vehicle for economic empowerment, social advancement and political participation.Policymakers and researchers seeking to respond to this situation are hindered by gaps in data and analysis. Recognition of this need led our three agencies to organize a technical workshop on the gender dimensions of rural employment, held 31 March to 2 April 2009. It sought answers to important but rarely addressed questions: What do we know exactly about the gender dimensions of agricultural and non-farm rural employment? What are the gaps in data and research? Are there examples of good practices that could be used to address gender inequalities through national policies? This report on the outcomes of the workshop is a first step in providing guidance to policy makers, researchers and development practitioners in developing countries and the international community.

Key Findings

  • Gender inequalities in rural employment exist everywhere, regardless of the level of economic development in the country/region, but exhibit different patterns according to social, cultural, religious and economic factors. Some of them -- such as the burden of unpaid work at home, lack of education and bargaining power, and limited access to assets -- clearly constitute significant economic disadvantages for women compared to men. In this context, it is interesting to observe that 90 percent of the wage gap between men and women in developed or developing countries is unexplained: in other words, it is attributed to gender discrimination.
  • Women tend to be more risk adverse than men when engaging in rural employment and women's heavy burden of unpaid work is one of the most important factors constraining their access to paid work in rural settings.
  • Gender patterns of rural employment change over time and differ across countries, in response to new trends, shocks and opportunities but some deep set gender inequalities remain. Changes in international trade, migration, financial crises, diversification of the rural economy are a few of the many phenomena that play an important role in changing men and women's rural employment opportunities and roles.
  • It is not enough to create more jobs for rural men and women. The quality or decency of those jobs also matter.
  • Financial services must be linked to wider sustainable development processes, so that increased access to financial services also contributes to the development of markets, value chains and the strengthening of local and national economies. Both the opportunities and the challenges have gender dimensions that need to be taken into account in the current process of innovation and expansion.
  • Sex-disaggregated data are needed to fill critical gaps in knowledge and improve policy decisionmaking processes.
  • Since gender differences in rural employment are many and often inter-related, a package of complementary policy measures are needed, including legal reforms that promote gender equalities, social safety nets, support to the creation of farmers, women and youths' organizations, child care programmes, female education, instruments to improve access to information and labour markets.

Populations Men, Rural, Women

Complementary Outcomes Education And Literacy, HIV/AIDS, Women's Rights

Industries Agriculture/Food Processing

Publishers Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Labour Organization (ILO)

Geographic Focus Africa (Central) / Rwanda