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UNCTAD, UNECE and UNECA embark on project to harness data and statistics for gender-responsive trade policy

UNCTAD, UNECE and UNECA embark on project to harness data and statistics for gender-responsive trade policy

A new project, bringing together three UN statistical offices, is helping countries to produce and use new statistics to measure the connections between gender and trade.

Trade in goods and services is the engine of economic activity, and measuring this trade has for a long time been a cornerstone of economic statistics. But for much of this time, trade has been viewed as gender neutral. Statistics about trade, and policies based on these statistics, have often been made without considering the gender dimensions—the different ways that women and men produce, consume, work, innovate and experience the impacts of trade.

This view is now changing as it becomes increasingly clear that gender inequalities can shape differences in access to resources and opportunities, in turn driving different outcomes for women and men in the economy. Trade policies can have important redistributive effects, but depending on how they are formulated they can either reduce existing disparities or inadvertently magnify them. Solid data and statistics are crucial to enable policymakers to anticipate how policies affect gender equality, to prevent polarization and social exclusion, and to promote corrective actions.

In seven countries of the UNECE region — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Republic of Moldova — the new project will pilot test a new framework for understanding the interplay of gender and trade, helping to develop practical guidance for countries to compile the necessary statistics.

The framework looks for ways to analyze data that are already produced to review gender aspects of trade: the things that motivate people and shape their aspirations; the resources they can access and constraints on their participation in trade; the different roles that they play in trade and entrepreneurship; and the different performance outcomes that result. For example, legal or cultural barriers to owning property can limit women’s ability to start a business. The burden of unpaid care work can constrain what kinds of paid jobs women can take. The impacts of trade via international competition can push down wages, especially for people in low-skilled jobs without strong bargaining power.

Many currently-available statistics on trade are already well-developed in national statistical systems, but simply lack a gender dimension. Integrating data on the gender of workers, business owners and managers with, for example, business surveys, or adding a question on trade participation to the labour force survey, could be an easy win, allowing analysts to look at the profile of women and men in international trade. Other areas will be more challenging, necessitating a deeper consideration of concepts, definitions and data collection methods in areas where, currently, aspects that are crucial to understanding gender differences are often missed: such as informal work and informal entrepreneurs, flexibility of working arrangements and types of working conditions faced by women and men.

By working with UNECE member States in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus, the project will strengthen the capacity of national statistical offices to provide the data needed by policymakers, helping to piece together a more detailed picture of progress towards inclusive trade policy and equitable economic development as part of the 2030 Agenda.

More information on the project can be found here.